The soup came out amazingly well. So, as promised, here’s the recipe:
1/4 pound pancetta, finely chopped
1 to 2 onions
4 to 6 carrots
4 to 6 celery stalks
2 bunches green chard
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, including juice
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 + quarts of water
1 or 2 rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano
Short-cut pasta (such as ditalini, cavatelli, pennette, etc.) already cooked just shy of al dente
Render the pancetta semi-slowly with some olive oil over medium/medium-low heat. While that’s going, finely chop the onions and throw them in the pot. Then chop the carrots and celery and throw all of that in. Give everything a good stir every few minutes or so to prevent burning.
Wash the chard and pull off the leaves from the stalk. Trim the ends off the stalk and chop them up and throw them in the pot as well. Keep stirring.
Keep at this a while… you want to get as much flavor as possible out of the veggies. It will pay off to make them sweat. You don’t have to stand over the pot with your spoon in your hand but this might not be the best time to order a movie with subtitles on demand. If you don’t have the time to let this go for 30-45 minutes and don’t want to check in on it frequently to give a quick stir, use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water to give the flavor a little push.
After sweating the veggies for a while, add the tomatoes and their juice along with the beans. Add as much water as you want (depends on how thick or thin you want your soup and crank the heat up to bring everything up to a bubble. Chop the chard leaves and wilt them into the soup. Lower heat so the soup is gently simmering and throw in the cheese rinds. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 30 minutes or longer (or until you remember to turn it off).
The soup is actually better after you let it sit for a while so make it over the weekend for a quick weeknight meal. Get a baguette or some rosemary bread, throw the soup in a pot to heat it up and dinner’s on the table in no time. No need for additional veggies, they’re all in the soup!
To serve, put some of the cooked pasta in a bowl and ladle the soup over it. Cooking the pasta separately ensures that it won’t get limp and disintegrate in the soup. Top with plenty of parmigiano and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.