Aired December 30, 2008
4 thin slices pancetta, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
Salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
3/4 pound ground pork
1/4 cup (a handful) breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (a handful) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup ditalini-shaped pasta
1 loaf crusty bread
Place a large saucepot over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook until crispy, 3-4 minutes.
Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and garlic to the pan with some salt and pepper, and cook until the veggies are tender, 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook until aromatic and brick red in color, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, water and beans to the pot, and bring the liquids up to a bubble.
While the soup is heating up, combine the pork, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Mix everything well with your hands to combine.
When liquids are at a bubble, reduce the heat to medium and form the meat into 1-inch balls, dropping them into the soup as you go. Simmer the dumplings until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat back up to medium-high, add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions.
Serve the soup with some crusty bread alongside and more grated Parm at the table.