Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
- ½ pound dried cranberry (borlotti) beans
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large celery stalk, small dice
- 1 large carrot, small dice
- ½ medium onion, small dice
- ¼ pound pancetta, small dice
- 1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 15 ounce can low-sodium beef broth
- 1 cup reserved bean cooking liquid
- 2 cups cold water
- 1½ teaspoons salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 rind from wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Ditalini (or other short, small pasta), cooked to al dente and drained
To cook the dried beans
- The night before, place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover completely with cold water. Set aside at room temperature.
- The next day, drain the beans through a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer the beans to a large pot and cover with cold water by 3 inches. Cover the pot partially with the lid and cook the beans over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1½ hours, until tender. The cooking liquid should simmer gently throughout the cooking process.
- When the beans are finished cooking, leave them in the cooking liquid until you are ready to use them. Note: If you are making the beans a day or two in advance, cool them completely and store them in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid.
- When you are ready to use the beans, reserve 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid and then drain the cooked beans through a colander.
To make the soup
- Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Add in the celery, carrot, onion and ½ teaspoon of the salt, and sauté until softened, about 5-7 minutes, stirring often.
- Add in the diced pancetta and cook until it’s lightly browned.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring often. Adjust the heat so the mixture simmers gently and does not scorch.
- Add in the drained, cooked beans, stirring thoroughly to coat them with the tomato mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the beef broth, bean cooking liquid, water, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, and stir well to combine.
- Cover the pot partially with the lid and bring the soup to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Cook the soup for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The liquid should reduce slightly. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Add in the cooked pasta and stir well to combine.
- Serve hot with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Do not salt the beans when you are cooking them. They will get enough seasoning when you assemble and cook the soup.
- Make it Vegetarian: Omit the pancetta and use vegetable stock instead of beef broth.