Minestra di Pasta e Fagioli

This hearty and delicious soup is so full-bodied that you only need a green salad to accompany it. The prosciutto skin is used for flavoring, and you can find it easily at the deli counter of an Italian market or supermarket (often they'll give it to you for free). If you want to eat the prosciutto skin, cut it into strips; otherwise, leave it in one or two pieces so that you can discard it easily after the soup is cooked. Saltiness of prosciutto skin and parmigiano rinds will vary, so be sure to taste as you go.

Minestra di Pasta e Fagioli
SERVINGS
6 to 8
by 2  people
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Ingredients
  • 3   tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
  • 1   pound pork stew meat, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4  pound pancetta, cut into strips
  • 1/4  pound prosciutto skin or skin from salt pork, whole or cut into strips (optional)
  • 1   large onion, chopped
  • 6   cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1   fennel bulb (about 3/4 pound), trimmed and diced
  • 1   rib celery, diced
  • 8 - 10   cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken stock
  • 1 1/2  cups dried white beans, such as cannellini (about 10 ounces)
  • 1   cup cooked or canned chickpeas (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1   cinnamon stick
  • 1   bay leaf
  • 1   sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1/4  pound Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds (optional)
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4  pound tubetti, ditali, or other short macaroni
  •  Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for sprinkling
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Directions
1. 
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the pork, pancetta, and prosciutto skin until they turn color, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, fennel, and celery and cook until softened, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock, white beans, chickpeas, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, rosemary, and Parmigiano rinds. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil (about 10 minutes) and then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the white beans are soft, about 1-1/2 hours. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring. Discard the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and rosemary sprig. Both the prosciutto skin and Parmigiano rinds can be eaten if you like. Serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmigiano.
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