This Italian pasta & bean soup was my husband’s favorite recipe for years! I now make it from memory. I tried to up the nutritional intake by increasing the vegetable, and again, I’m soooooooooooooooooooooo liberal with the spices. I grow my own fresh herbs in pots on a big ledge under my basement window. But a tablespoon each of dried herbs will be just fine.

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO from her on out), plus some for drizzling

4 thick slices pancetta, or bacon, or even ham

2 sprigs rosemary

2 tbsp Mrs. Dash, extra spicy

Sprinkle of crushed red pepper

4 sprigs thyme

1 large fresh or 2 dried bay leaves

1-2 large onions, finely chopped

4 large carrots, finely chopped

4-6 ribs of celery, finely chopped

6 large cloves garlic, chopped

Coarse salt & pepper

2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, or small white beans, drained

6 -8 cups chicken stock

1/3 lb ditalini (You may also use macaroni, rotini, shells or penne, but that makes it more of a stew. I always use whole grain.)

Grated Parmigiano or Romano

Crusty bread for dipping & soaking

1. Heat the EVOO in a deep pot on medium-high heat.

2. Brown pancetta bits lightly and add herb stems, bay leaf, Mrs. Dash, red pepper, chopped vegetables and garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Add beans & stock to pot, raise heat to high & bring to a rapid boil.

3. Add pasta. Reduce heat to medium & cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Remove the herb stems (leaves should’ve separated, leave in soup). Taste & adjust seasoning.

4. Remove pot from heat & let soup “rest” a few minutes. Ladle into bowls & top with grated/shredded/sliced cheese & a drizzle of EVOO. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.


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