This soup is really good. It is so good that BK, in fact, calls it “Crack Soup” because I can’t stop eating it. Left to my own devices if BK is not home to give me a stern look, I will eat it until my stomach is killing me.
The funny thing is that I didn’t used to think this soup was so good. When I was young and single and ate onions, I used to carefully spoon the bacon drippings out of the soup pot so it would be healthier. Then BK and I got married and I figured I’d be splitting the bacon drippings with someone else, so I’d just leave them in. Well, let me tell you: it makes *all* the difference!! Leave the bacon drippings in, in the name of all that is good in the world!!
Many times, “soup for dinner” meals are disappointing because the soup just isn’t hearty enough to make a meal. This one is though…the beans and pasta will fill you up. It’s also very good as leftovers, but the pasta soaks up a ton of the broth, so I like to add more water when I’m reheating.
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2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
⅛ pound (3 slices) pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs rosemary, left intact
1 (4 to 6-inch) sprig thyme with several sprigs on it, left intact, or 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
coarse salt and pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini or great northern beans
1 cup canned tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 quart chicken stock
1½ cups ditalini
grated Parmigiano or Romano, for the table
crusty bread, for mopping
Heat a deep pot over medium high heat and add oil and pancetta or bacon. Brown the pancetta or bacon bits lightly, and add herb stems, bay leaf, chopped vegetables, and garlic. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Add beans, tomato sauce, water, and stock to pot and raise heat to high. Bring soup to a rapid boil and add pasta. Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. Rosemary and thyme leaves may separate from stems as soup cooks; remove stems and bay leaves. Let soup rest and begin to cool for a few minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with grated cheese. Pass crusty bread for bowl mopping.
Slightly adapted from The Food Network, Rachael Ray.