- 1 Cup dried white beans such as navy or cannelloni, soaked in cold water overnight and drained
- One 1-ounce slice of pancetta
- 1 small onion, halved, plus 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, 2 whole and 2 smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 quarts plus 3 cups water
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small fennel bulb, cored and coarsely chopped
- 2 red potatoes (10 ounces), peeled and halved
- 4 small zucchini (1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3/4 pound green beans or Romano beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 medium tomatoes—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 Cup small shaped pasta, such as elbows
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 4 to 6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 30 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- Basil sprigs, for garnish
- Fresh Parmesan Cheese
1. Put the drained white beans, pancetta, halved onion, whole garlic cloves and bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Add the 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard the pancetta, onion, garlic and bay leaf.
2. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil. Add the fennel, potatoes, chopped onion and smashed garlic. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel and onion are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the 2 quarts of water and gradually bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add the zucchini and green beans to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Mash the potatoes against the side of the pot using a large fork; the potatoes will thicken the soup. Add the diced tomatoes and the white beans and their cooking liquid and simmer the soup over moderately low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. In a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the pasta and cook over moderate heat until golden brown and toasty, about 4 minutes. Stir the pasta into the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand until the pasta is tender, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Meanwhile, make the Pistou: Put the garlic and tomatoes in a blender or food processor with about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Begin processing. With the machine running, add the basil leaves, and then pour in enough extra-virgin olive oil to make a smooth, thick, but fluid paste. Transfer about 2/3 of the paste into a serving bowl to pass alongside the soup.
6. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and turn on the broiler. Add cheese to bread and put it back on the baking sheet. Broil until the cheese is warm and slightly browned. Set aside.
7. When the soup is ready, stir the remaining pistou into the saucepan, ladling some of the hot broth into the blender or processor bowl to swirl and rinse any pesto clinging inside into the pan. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with a little more salt if needed.
8. Ladle the soup into individual heated serving bowls. Float a baguette in the center of each bowl. With a spoon, drizzle a little more pistou over the baguette and soup in each bowl. Serve immediately, passing more pistou alongside for each person to add, to taste.