There are probably hundreds versions of this recipe online and I normally wouldn’t post something you can readily find elsewhere but there are a couple of things different about my version. The most obvious one is that I use a pressure cooker but it’s not for convenience, it’s because it allows me to cook the beans in less stock and then use the resulting beany broth as a base for the rest of the dish. If you cooked the beans conventionally you’d have to use at least twice as much liquid and you’d end up throwing half of it out as the soup would be too thin otherwise.
This liquid is crucial to the success of the recipe because the second major difference is I don’t use any tomatoes; for me, I think they can obscure the flavour of the beans but you need a very flavourful beef broth or else the results can be quite bland. Also, tomatoes are quite a recent addition as many northern Italian provinces only started using them not even 150 years ago.
Unfortunately, this means a stock made from just bones, which is all I normally have in the freezer, is not enough so what I do is simmer some browned mince in it for an hour to up the flavour. Although, if this isn’t possible I’ll relent and add some tomato concentrate whilst I’m sweating off the vegetables. Another nontraditional addition that can work very well is using smoked bacon instead of pancetta (proper pancetta is not smoked); in fact, if I’m totally honest I think it makes for a better soup.
150g dried cannellini beans
500ml very flavourful beef broth
75g diced pancetta
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 parmesan rind
100g ditalini pasta
20g grated parmesan
- Soak the beans in 1l of water with 10g of salt overnight.
- Drain the beans and place in a pressure cooker with the stock (add some water if you think it necessary).
- Bring up the pressure cooker up to full pressure and cook for 8 minutes.
- Allow the cooker to return to normal pressure naturally.
- Strain the beans and reserve the cooking water.
- Melt the lard in a pot and then add the pancetta.
- Fry until golden brown and then remove a few pieces to sprinkle over the soup at the end.
- Add the carrots, celery and garlic to the pot and fry for around 5 minutes being careful not to colour them.
- Add the bean water, bay leaf, parmesan rind and half the beans to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
- In a separate pan, cook the pasta in boiling, heavily salted water until al dente.
- Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind from the soup pot and blend the contents until completely smooth.
- Drain the pasta and add, along with the other half of the beans, to the blended soup.
- If the liquid is too thick, dilute with some more stock or water.
- Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Divide between two bowls and sprinkle over the reserved pancetta and parmesan.
- Finish with a few swirls of olive oil and serve.