Paste e Fagioli
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock or broth
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
2 sprigs fresh basil (about ¼ cup)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 Parmesan cheese rind, optional (any size, for extra flavor and richness)
1 ½ cups ditalini pasta, or other small noodles
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Heat a stock pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it’s hot, add the pancetta bits and cook until lightly brown and crispy. Remove bits, keeping the oil in the pan, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.
Add the onion, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pot and sauté, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the garlic. Sauté for about 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Add the white wine to deglaze the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove any brown bits.
Once the liquid has reduced by half, add the chicken stock, beans, crushed tomatoes, water, fresh herbs and Parmesan rind (if using) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove herb sprigs and discard.
If serving the entire batch at once, bring soup to a rolling boil over high heat and add the pasta. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Let soup cool for a few minutes before serving, then ladle into serving bowls and garnish with saved pancetta bits and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Store for several days in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to 2 months (without pasta is best for freezing).