I really jumped on the eating fresh band wagon years ago when I spotted Michael Chiarello on the Food Network. His dishes looked amazing. He made making gnocchi and tomato puree look so simple.
In some recipes that call for pancetta I will go ahead and substitute thick bacon. But in this recipe I suggest stopping by the deli to purchase the real thing. One alternative to using bacon in the place of pancetta would be to cook the bacon in the pot but remove before adding the rest of the ingredients then crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the soup ladled in individual bowls before serving.
Source: Michael Chiarello
1 cup (4 ounces) tubetti pasta, or other small pasta shape
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 3 pieces
6 medium garlic cloves, each cut in 1/2 lengthwise
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions (2 small onions)
1 cup small-diced celery (2 medium stalks)
1 cup small-diced carrots (2 to 3 medium carrots)
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary or thyme leaves
1 (14-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups small-diced zucchini (green/yellow) (5 small zucchini)
2 cups small-diced, peeled russet potatoes (1 large russet)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer the pasta to a baking sheet. Toss the pasta with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the chicken stock.
In another large saucepan over high heat, heat 1/4 cup oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the pancetta and cook until it begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, celery, and carrots.
Cook until the vegetables are soft, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent browning. Add the chopped herbs. Raise the heat to high. Add the beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and potatoes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then bring it down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes, skimming any foam off the top of the soup. Season generously with pepper. Add salt, to taste. Just a few minutes before serving, add the cooked tubetti pasta. Serve warm with Parmesan and olive oil passed at the table.