Minestrone with Crisp Parmesan Crumbs
- 1 pound borlotti beans
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/2 cup divided, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 pound pancetta, finely chopped
- 2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 4 carrots, finely chopped
- 4 parsnips, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes, drained and hand crushed
- 6 quarts chicken stock
- 3 cups fresh white bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak the beans: Put the beans in a large pot and cover them with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook the beans for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 1 hour. (Or cover the beans with cold water and let them soak overnight.)
Start the soup: In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot add the pancetta, onion, celery, carrots, and parsnips and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons thyme, 2 tablespoons rosemary, the sage, and bay leaves. Drain the beans and add them to the pot along with the tomatoes and 1/4 cup olive oil. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, adding water if you need more liquid. The soup should be thick: to thicken the soup, break up some of the beans with the back of a spoon. Remove the bay leaves and discard before serving.
Toast the bread crumbs: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the bread crumbs, remaining thyme and rosemary, and cheese on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle over about 1/4 cup olive oil; combine well. Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.
To serve, ladle the soup into small glasses, cups or mugs. Drizzle on a little olive oil, top with the crispy crumbs, and serve.