- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 2x1-inch piece salt pork (or 1 2-ounce piece pancetta)
- 1 celery stalk, minced
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ 3-oz can tomato paste
- 1 14.5-oz can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), drained, keeping whole tomatoes aside
- 1 cup water
- 1 32-oz container organic vegetable broth
- 2 pounds fresh borlotti (cranberry) beans in pods, shelled (or 1 cup dried cranberry beans, soaked overnight)
- 1 piece parmesan cheese rind
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese for Parmesan Crisps
- Salt to taste
- 3 cups cooked ditalini pasta
- Good quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Heat olive oil and salt pork or pancetta in a covered 5-quart Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Render fat until it breaks down and just starts to get crispy (about 1-2 minutes); then add celery and black pepper. Cook for about one minute, stirring frequently; then stir in tomato paste. Cook for about one minute, stirring continuously to prevent it from burning. Next, crush reserved whole tomatoes by hand over pot, making sure any liquid also goes in as well. Mix in to incorporate; then add water, broth, beans and cheese rind. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about one hour (or one and a half hours for dried), until beans are cooked.
To serve, place a quarter cup of pasta in a rimmed bowl and spoon a ladle of soup over top. Drizzle with olive oil and place parmesan crisp on top. Serve with warm, with crusty bread.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Pour a heaping tablespoon of the cheese onto parchment and lightly pat down. Continue with the remaining cheese, spacing each spoonful approximately one half inch apart. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes depending on your oven, until golden. Be mindful not to overcook or burn the crisps. Carefully remove to a cooling rack until ready to serve.