PASTA E FAGIOLI (Italian pasta and bean soup, for six)
2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped carrot
3 tablespoons chopped celery
3 or 4 pork ribs, a ham bone with meat on it, or 2 small pork chops
2/3 cup canned Italian tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
2 pounds fresh cranberry beans or 1 cup dried Great Northern beans, cooked, or 1 twenty ounce can white kidney beans or other white beans, drained
3 cups homemade beef broth or 1 cup canned beef broth with 2 cups water
freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces small, tubular macaroni
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Put the onion in a stockpot with the oil and sauté over medium heat until pale gold. Add the carrot, celery and pork and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring the vegetables and turning the pork occasionally. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.
2. If you are using fresh cranberry beans, shell the beans, rinse them in cold water and add to the pot. Stir 2 or 3 times, then add the broth. Cover the pot, adjust the heat so that the liquid is bubbling at a very moderate boil, but a bit more than a simmer, and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beans are tender. (If you are using precooked beans, cook the tomatoes for 20 minutes instead of 10, then add the drained beans. Let the beans cook in the tomatoes for 5 minutes, stirring thoroughly, then add the broth and bring to a moderate boil).
3. Scoop up about ½ cup of the beans and mash them through a food mill back into the pot. Add salt and pepper. (If you are using canned broth, taste carefully for salt, as canned broth can be quite salty).
4. Check the soup for density. Add more broth or water if needed, and bring the liquid to a steady boil. Add the pasta. If you are using fresh egg pasta, stop cooking 1 minute after you’ve dropped it in. If you are using dried pasta, taste for doneness and stop cooking when pasta is very firm to the bite. Allow the soup to rest for 10 minutes and, just before serving, swirl in the grated cheese. The soup can be made ahead of time up to, but not including, step 4. Add the pasta only when you are going to serve the soup.
from Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook