This recipe uses Cranberry (Borlotti) beans. These beans are not my fave- they were used commonly in the Azores, as well, and I used them there. They don't cook very fast and remain mealy. I'd use pinto beans next time; they're so much creamier and also have a faster cooking time.
Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from Cooking with Lucas
½ Box Ditalini or other short pasta (250 grams or 1/2 lb.)
1 pound dry borlotti (cranberry) OR pinto beans (I soaked overnight)
1 1/2 cups smoked, diced pancetta
3 quarts meat broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus a cheese rind, optional
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 slices bread
1 clove garlic
1. Peel potatoes. Finely chop onion and rosemary. Heat 1/3 of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Lightly brown onion and finely dice pancetta. Add beans, broth, diced potatoes and rosemary. Add the cheese rind if you have it. Cook (at a low simmer) for 1-2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir occasionally so beans don't stick to the pan.
2. Remove pot from heat. Remove and puree about 1/3 of the beans and potatoes. Or, use an immersion blender to blend a portion of the soup right in the pot. Bring everything to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions. (If your soup is very thick, you may want to boil the pasta separately and then add; this is what I did.)
3. Remove pot from heat. Finish with chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and the rest of the olive oil. Serve in individual soup bowls with slices of toasted bread rubbed with a clove of garlic.
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