I have been making this for years and it is, by far, one of my favorite soups to make in the winter. I know it is officially spring but I kept forgetting to take pictures when I made this and don't want to wait until next winter to share it with you. So go out and get the ingredients and make it NOW! You will be glad you did.
I really think it is the pancetta that makes this soup. It gives it a salty yet almost sweet flavor while the rosemary and bay leaf make it earthy. And I love a great (almost) vegetarian soup. I normally make a big pot of this on a Sunday night, have it for dinner, and then take it for a few days for lunch. A filling and healthy meal!
PASTA E FAGIOLI
from the Tastes of the Mediterranean cookbook
7 oz. dried borlotti beans (roman beans)
1/4 c. olive oil
3 1/4 oz. piece pancetta, finely diced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 spring fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
6 1/2 c. vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh leaf Italian parsley
5 1/2 oz. ditalini
freshly grated Parmesan, to serve
1. Place beans in large bowl, cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and rinse.
2. Heat oil in large saucepan, add pancetta, onion, garlic, celery, and carrot, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until golden.
3. Season with pepper. Add bay leaf, rosemary, parsley, tomato, stock, and beans and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Add more boiling water if necessary to maintain liquid level.
5. Discard bay leave, rosemary, and parsley sprigs. Scoop out 1 cup of bean mixture and puree in food processor or blender.* Return to pan, season with salt and ground pepper and add parsley and pasta.
6. Simmer for 6 minutes or until pasta is al dente.
7. Garnish with parmesan.
Note: I used to put some of the bean mixture in a food processor but then I got a hand emulsion blender (which I highly recommend for making soups.) I just put that in the soup and pulse it until I get a thicker consistency. Just remember that the soup with thicken up a bit more as it cooks a little longer.