Umami is 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, just keep tasting as you cook your soup. The noodles are an added bonus and I used gluten-free brown rice noodles. The soup is delicious on it’s own! Store the soup separately from the noodles and combine just when serving.
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. 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. Set the pasta aside.
Remove the soup from the heat and take out the cheese rind. Season with salt and pepper. If serving, add the pasta, fresh chopped parsley, grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, for garnish. 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.