The first time that I traveled to Florence, I ordered a soup at a restaurant near the Piazza del Duomo that was possibly the best soup I’ve ever had in my life. It was a cross between pasta e fagioli and minestrone. On the train ride to Siena, I seriously contemplated doubling back to experience it one more time. I’m not kidding. I’ve been trying to re-create that soup ever since with pancetta, cannellini beans, vegetables, chicken stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, and lots of lemon. Serve this humble, soul-warming soup with garlic bread or a crusty baguette.
Odette William’s Simple Pasta cookbook is available now.
Cannellini, Pancetta & Lemon Pasta e Fagioli
- 4 ounces any small dried pasta, such as rotelle no. 54, small shells, or ditalini
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2 bunches, about 1 pound rainbow chard or spinach, stems trimmed and finely chopped, leaves coarsely chopped
- 2 yellow onions, finely diced
- 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 8 sprigs thyme, stemmed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, optional, plus finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for sprinkling
- juice of 2 lemons
- In a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard stems, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves and season with the salt and pep- per. Cook gently, stirring often, until softened but not brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the chicken stock, beans, pasta, and Parmigiano rind (if using) to the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until the pasta is just al dente (likely a bit longer than the package instructions because you’re simmering, not boiling, in the stock).
- Discard the bay leaves and Parmigiano rind. Stir in the chard leaves until they’ve wilted. Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Serve the pasta hot and steamy with a sprinkling of more Parmigiano.
Reprinted with permission from Simple Pasta by Odette Williams, copyright (c) 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.