This hearty spring soup is loaded with familiar elements of a traditional minestrone: pancetta, diced vegetables, tiny pasta and a rich chicken broth flavored with Parmesan. For this version, we’ve replaced cannellini beans with lima beans and added asparagus and escarole for a bright, green touch.
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or other large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the onion and celery and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just softened, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken broth, 2 cups water, the Parmesan rind, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the lima beans and escarole and cook until the beans are tender and the escarole is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the ditalini, return to a gentle simmer and cook until the pasta is tender, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally to prevent sticking, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the asparagus and cook until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. The soup should be thick, but if it is too thick, add more water or chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time. Season with salt and pepper and discard the Parmesan rind. Divide among bowls; drizzle with olive oil and top with pepper and grated Parmesan.