serves: 8 servings
Pasta and bean based soups are better when they've had a chance to rest. Serve them after two hours or, better yet, the next day. But remember not to add pasta or rice until the final boiling, just before serving, or they will expand and take over your soup pot.
1½ cups Borlotti beans, dried
3 cups water, cold, plus more for soaking the beans
3 large russet potatoes, peeled
2 sprigs rosemary, fresh
2 bay leaves, fresh or dry
1½ teaspoons peperoncino
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed and peeled
4 ounces cured pork butt, fresh or smoked
1 cup ditalini
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Pick over the beans, discarding any stones or other objects and any beans that are discolored. Place the beans in a deep bowl and pour in enough cold water to cover them by at least 4 inches. Soak the beans in a cool place at least 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the beans and transfer them to a deep, heavy 4 to 5-quart pot. Add 3 quarts of water, the potatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, and peperoncino. Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the level of heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium-size skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until light golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in the trito and continue cooking until fragrant and very lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes to the skillet and simmer 10 minutes. Scrape the trito mixture into the pot. If using the ham hocks add them now. Continue simmering until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. If using the pork butt, add it 30 minutes after adding the trito.
Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and mash them roughly. Return the potatoes to the pot and stir in the pasta. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the meat from the pot and cut into 1/4-inch dice; return the diced meat to the minestra.
Remove the soup from the heat and season it with salt and pepper to taste. Let it stand 5 minutes. Serve the soup in warm bowls, sprinkled with the grated cheese.