There are probably as many versions of pasta e fagioli as there are chicken noodle soup. I have a favorite recipe that I've made for years, but as I was leafing through my copy of Carmine's Family-style Cookbook, I saw a new version and decided to make it (with minimal revisions).
Servings: 7 (1 cup servings) at 3 SP each
1 cup dried cannellini beans
2 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
4 slices Oscar Meyer center cut bacon, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
8 cups lower sodium chicken broth
1 small smoked pork neck bone
5 canned San Marzano plum tomatoes, drained
2 ounces dried ditalini pasta
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (OPT: more for serving)
Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 1 to 2 inches of cold water. Let the beans soak 6-12 hours, changing the water several times.
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the bacon and cook the mixture slowly until browned. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, and Italian seasoning and saute for another few minutes. Add the stock and neckbone.
Drain the beans and add to the stock. Bring up to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes. Use your hands to crush the plum tomatoes into the pot. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup briskly for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until the beans are tender but not mushy.
Increase the heat, add the pasta, and boil the soup, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the pasta is done and the soup has thickened. Remove the neckbone, add the cheese, and serve.
I made this soup to serve later in the week since I know the flavors will continue to develop. That plan may or may not work because one taste has revealed that this is my new go-to pasta e fagioli. The soup is thick, rich, and deeply flavorful. It is still more of a bean soup than a tomato soup, which I love. Next time, I'll use fresh herbs, but this is a definite keeper.