This pasta fagioli soup for the slow cooker combines cranberry beans and pancetta with crushed tomatoes and penne pasta. As the dried beans slow simmer, they release their rich essence into a broth seasoned with chicken stock, fragrant herbs, and a rind of Parmesan. The result is a soup that delivers unforgettable flavor in every bowl. You'll love the way it warms and satisfies!
Pancetta is Italian bacon. It's made from the same cut of pork as regular bacon, but cured with different methods. Bacon is smoked and available in long strips, while pancetta isn't smoked, but available chopped or in thin, round slices.
You can find pancetta at your local grocery store, butcher shop, or deli. But when you need a substitute, unsmoked bacon is a good choice.
1-1/2 cups dried cranberry (Roman) beans or great northern beans, soak overnight
2 tablespoons salt
2 quarts cold water
4 ounces sliced pancetta, chopped (placing pancetta in freezer for 5-10 minutes and using a sharp knife will make chopping easier)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, rinsed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry sherry
3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferred (brown chicken stock)
3 cups water
1 piece Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 ounces penne pasta, uncooked
Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped for garnish
1. Sort and rinse: Sort through the dried beans; remove any shriveled beans or debris. Pour beans into a colander or fine mesh sieve; rinse under running, cold water.
2. Soak beans: In a large pot, dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 2 quarts of cold water. Add beans and soak overnight. Drain and rinse under running, cold water before cooking. Add beans to slow cooker. (See source for using salt below.)
3. Brown pancetta: Over medium-high heat, brown chopped pancetta in a skillet; stir frequently. Leave the released fat in the pan for the next step.
4. Sauté onions, carrots, and celery: Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook until vegetables are soft, but not brown.
5. Add garlic: Add minced garlic. Cook about 1 minute; stirring constantly. Then add vegetables to slow cooker.
6. Deglaze: Reduce heat and add 1/2 cup dry sherry to skillet. Stir with wooden spoon and loosen any brown bits left behind. Add mixture to slow cooker after 2-3 minutes.
7. Add: To slow cooker, add chicken stock, water, Parmesan rind, bay leaf, dried oregano, dried basil, and dried parsley.
8. Cook: Lid on, cook on LOW for 6-8 hours (or HIGH for 3-4 hours).
9. One hour before eating: Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and uncooked penne. (Adding tomatoes at the beginning can prevent the dried beans from cooking to a creamy softness.)
10. Cook: Lid on, cook on HIGH for 1 hour or until pasta is tender.
11. Remove: Remove bay leaf and Parmesan rind.
12. Season to taste: Add salt and black pepper to taste.
13 Garnish: Ladle soup into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Enjoy!
Crosby, Guy. "Concept 28: Don't Soak Beans — Brine 'Em." In The Science of Good Cooking, 256-261. Brookline, Massachusetts: America's Test Kitchen, 2012.
"What Is Pancetta, Prosciutto, and Mortadella?" BellaOnline - The Voice of Women. Accessed March 15, 2018. http://www.bellaonline.org/articles/art65459.asp.