Italian Bean and Pasta Soup
- 2 cups dried cranberry, cannellini or other small
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped pancetta
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 8 cups water or chicken stock, or as needed
- 1 1/2 cups diced canned plum tomatoes
- 2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lb. small dried pasta, such as shells or
- Extra-virgin olive oil for serving
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
In a Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the water, beans, tomatoes and 2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour.
To give the soup more body, remove 2 large spoonfuls of beans and vegetables and puree in a blender or food processor, then return the puree to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and reheat gently.
When the soup is almost ready, bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until barely al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 8 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and add it to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes more.
To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Top each serving with a swirl of extra-virgin olive oil, some grated cheese and a generous grinding of pepper.