Pappa’s Pasta Fagioli

Only kidding. It’s not Pappa’s, I just love alliteration.
The first thing is to soak the beans. Bring a little over a cup of cannellini to the boil in plenty of water, and then leave them covered and off the flame for an hour. Rinse, new water in the pot with the beans, a sage leaf, a piece of any tomato, canned or fresh, and a good drizzle of olive oil. Back on the flame until they come to a simmer, and then cover them with a piece of parchment paper that fits exactly inside the pot. When they are nearly tender, give them a good few pinches of salt. When they are done, leave them be in the pot until you are ready for them.
Get out the biggest dutch oven you have and start to sweat a head of celery, finely chopped, and 2 onions, also finely chopped in a douse of olive oil. Add 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, halved. Give them salt, a sprig of rosemary, a sprig of parsely and if you have one, a sprig of thyme, and keep them going over a low heat until you feel your heart opening when you taste them. They should be completey soft and so delicious that it is going to be hard to continue with the rest of the soup. Resist and carry on.
Add a few red pepper flakes and about a 1/3 of a pound of pancetta, also diced finely (this is optional, all you vegetarians). Continue cooking until the pancetta is nearly crisp, but only lightly browned. The flame has got to be low.
Add 1 28 ounce can of hand squished San Marzano tomatoes. Let this go at a simmer with a sprig of parsley for half an hour. (If you have a good rind of parmegiano reggiano, you can scrub that and add it to the tomatoes for flavor). Smash about a third to a half of your beans with a fork. Add to the soup. Add the rest of the beans whole, and enough liquid to your liking.
Cook three handfuls of pasta (I like penne) in salted water until very al dente. Drain. Pour the soup over so it’s a balance of pasta and soup that you’re happy with. Let it simmer for a minute. Add a bit more liquid if you need and get the grated parm or (if you have an excellent romano) ready.
Serve with a salad of chopped belgian endive, a little ridichio, a little arugula, a few parsley leaves and a few torn basil leaves that has been dressed with your best olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon.

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