(from The Campagna Table)
Makes 10-12 servings
pounds shelled fresh or 1 pound dried cranberry (borlotti) beans, or 1
pound other dried beans such as cannellini, navy, or Great Northern
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, diced
¼ pound prosciutto or smoked bacon, diced
3 rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 quarts chicken stock, vegetable stock, water, or low-sodium canned broth
2 cups crushed or milled canned Italian plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
¼ pound dried tubilati or another small pasta shape, or long pasta broken into small pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
1 T. per serving freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
If using dried beans, in a large bowl cover the beans with at least four times their volume of cold water. Soak for 12 to 24 hours, changing the water every 8 hours or so. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and prosciutto and cook, stirring, until the onion is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh or soaked beans and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the rosemary, bay leaf, stock, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and a large pinch of salt, cover, and bring to a simmer. Simmer about 1 hour, until the beans are very soft and beginning to split. Add the pasta and 1 cup cold water. Bring back to a simmer and simmer until the pasta is cooked. The finished soup should be very thick. Remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.