As soon as the weather starts to get chilly, I immediately start thinking of soups and stews to fill our weekday menu. This is a classic Italian soup, easy to make with most ingredients you have on hand. I love the fresh thyme and salty pancetta pieces. If you cant find the Italian meat at your supermarket, you can substitute the same amount of bacon.
- 1T olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3-4 ounce package diced pancetta (or bacon)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced,
- 7 cups water*
- 3 T Better Than Bouillon chicken paste*
- 6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can Great Northern or Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup short tube pasta (I use ditalini)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or Italian blend) cheese
In a large (7 quart) stockpot over medium high heat, cook the pancetta or bacon until nearly all the fat has been rendered, but it's not yet crispy. Remove to a plate and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add the olive oil and onions. Stir in about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sauté until translucent then add the minced garlic for about a minute before returning the pancetta to the pot. Now add the water and chicken paste*. Increase the heat to high and stir until combined. Drop in the thyme bundle, bay leaf and both cans of rinsed beans. Let it come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Remember, the pasta will need absorb some of that salty flavor. This is Giada's tip: ladle about 1-2 cups of the soup (beans too!) into a blender or food processor and pulse until thick and creamy (about 10 seconds). Then pour it back into the stockpot. This makes the whole soup feel a little thicker and creamier without losing that great texture or adding cream. Now add the pasta and cook according to box directions (about 8 minutes usually). Just before serving, remove what's left of the thyme bundle and bay leaf, add the cheese and stir. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread or a fresh salad.
Makes about 8 servings.
*If you'd prefer, you can use 8 cups of chicken broth, just omit the water and chicken paste.
Recipe modified a bit from Giada De Laurentiis.