We hear something every day about the importance of beans in our diet. Thank goodness, most Louisianans have grown up liking red beans and white beans. They’re full of healthy nutrients and fiber our bodies need, and the best news is that they’re cheap. In fact, dried beans, which I’m using in this recipe, may be one of the best buys in the grocery store, especially if you buy them in bulk. I’ll admit I do pass up the bulk ones and look for the little pound packages my mother always bought.

Packages will not necessarily be marked white beans. You’ll see navy (pea) beans, great Northerns, cannellini, lady cream peas, etc. Any dry white or off-white bean can be used in the recipe. Their nutritional values are all about the same, the flavors are similar and they’re mostly oval shaped.

This recipe for White Bean Soup With Pasta is from the “Robusto Italiano” booklet handed out at The Advocate’s Food Focus shows in 1991. It was a family recipe submitted by Gayle Wagner. The beans are cooked with smoked ham and tasso. Cooked pasta is added to the beans right before serving.

Corinne Cook is a columnist for The Advocate. Reach her at food@theadvocate.com.