4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling
4 thick slices pancetta, about half-inch thick each, diced
2 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme with several sprigs on it
1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 small carrots, finely chopped
4 rib celery, finely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, chopped
Coarse salt and pepper
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, or small white beans, drained
6 cups chicken stock
1/3 pound ditalini (small tube pasta)
Grated Parmigiano or Romano, for the table
Crusty bread, for mopping
Heat a deep pot over medium-high heat. Add EVOO and pancetta.
Brown pancetta bits lightly and add herb stems, bay leaf, chopped vegetables and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add beans and stock to the pot, and raise heat to high.
Bring soup to a rapid boil and add pasta. Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. The rosemary and thyme leaves will separate from stems as the soup cooks; remove the stems and bay leaf from soup.
Place the pot on the table on a trivet so the hot pot does not burn your table. Let the soup rest and cool for a few minutes. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with lots of grated cheese and another little drizzle of EVOO. Pass crusty bread at the table for bowl mopping.