Italian Vegetable and Bean Soup

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pasta soup

Now let’s talk about umami, a savory flavor sometimes referred to as the fifth taste alongside sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Naturally occurring in foods such as mushrooms, cheese, fish, meat, tomatoes and soy beans, to name a few. Sometimes when you have a dish that seems to be missing something, it’s often the umami flavor. This soup has an abundance of umami. Both the buttery parmesan rind that dissolves in the soup and the pungent anchovy paste, provide great depth of flavor. I used pancetta to add even more punch, but if you prefer a meatless dish substitute extra-virgin olive oil. There are many flavors that you can experiment with, but make sure to taste as you cook. The noodles are really an accessory and I used gluten-free brown rice noodles, but the soup is delicious on it’s own.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if you leave out the pancetta
  • 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped in a small dice
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped in a small dice
  • 2 carrots, chopped in a small dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 springs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicier)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon anchovy paste (or 3 anchovy fillets minced to a paste)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 piece of parmesan rind about 3-4 inches long
  • 1 (15-ounce) can navy or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water if soup needs more liquid
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces pasta of your choice, shells or elbows are good choices
  • Garnishes: freshly grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, fresh chopped parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven over a medium-high heat. Add the pancetta if using and cook, stirring occasionally until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes or so. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a minute then add the thyme leaves, red pepper flakes, and anchovy paste or fillets. Cook for another minute or two. Add the canned tomatoes with the juices, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cheese rind, and beans and bring to a boil. Let the flavors come together before adding the liquid. Add the chicken broth and water if needed, and a scant teaspoon of salt. Increase the heat to high and bring to boil.  Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta separately in a pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Note: If you add the pasta to the soup, it will absorb most of the liquid, so wait to combine until ready to serve.

Remove the soup from the heat and take out the cheese rind. Adjust the seasoning. If serving, add the pasta, fresh chopped parsley, grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. The soup is at it’s best when it’s refrigerated overnight and re-heated the next day. Store the pasta and the soup separately. Serves 8.

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