Ah January and February in Italy. It’s cold. It’s gray. It’s rainy and snowy, and what makes me happy? Well, other than a fire going all day long? SOUP. On repeat. This isn’t just soup season; it’s High Soup Season. I want to feel cozy, and nothing gives me that sensation quite like a savory, brothy ham and bean soup.
When I think of ham and bean soup, I think of slow cooking with ham hocks. But, considering that the holidays are long past, I don’t have any leftover ham bones lying around. No problem! Cubed deli ham, added at the end, works great. Here, I’ve sautéed the veggies in pancetta grease and olive oil. Plus, we’ll simmer the beans with a slice of pancetta, fresh rosemary, and parmesan rinds. So by the time it’s finished, it’ll already have so much umami goodness that you could even skip the ham altogether.
Now, I may sound like a broken record to some of you, but if you haven’t heard me mention it before, do not throw away your parmigiano rinds! They are packed with flavor and are excellent for flavoring soups. Everyone wants that soft piece of stewed cheese, so don’t hesitate to add more than one. I store them in a ziploc bag in the freezer, ready to fulfill my soup needs all winter. If you don’t have any, ask the cheese counter at your grocery store. Mine puts them out once a week, so if I’m running low, I make sure to drop by on Tuesdays.
Lastly, I am using edible rosemary buds. Our plants were in full bloom when I made this soup (yes in the middle of winter) and I couldn’t resist. Rosemary flowers are like gorgeous, delicious, teeny tiny orchids that have a delicate flavor. While they are completely unnecessary, they’re pretty, they’re tasty, and if life gives you edible flowers, eat them!
6oz of pancetta, cubed + 1 thick slice
3 Tbsp Olivando Originale EVOO
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, whole, peeled
400g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
A few fresh rosemary branches
8 oz leftover ham or cubed proscioutto cotto/deli ham
Olivando for drizzling
*Optional rosemary buds
- Heat a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the cubed pancetta and cook until browned, being careful not to burn. Remove to a paper towel and reserve grease.
- Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot, along with the pancetta grease. Add diced onions and sauté until softened and translucent.
- Add carrots, celery, and garlic cloves. Continue cooking until the veggies have softened.
- Add the soaked and rinsed beans, broth, rosemary, the slice of pancetta, and Parmigiano Reggiano rinds. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 1.5 hours or until beans are cooked.
- Use tongs to remove the slice of pancetta, rosemary twigs, and garlic cloves.
- Add the cubed ham. Stir and allow to heat through.
- Ladle into bowls. Top with shredded Parmigiano, a generous swirl of Olivando, and if you happen to have them, rosemary buds.