Minestrone with Crisp Parmesan Crumbs

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 40 min
  • Prep: 20 min
  • Inactive: 1 hr
  • Cook: 2 hr 20 min
  • Yield: 20 to 30 small servings
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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


  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. To serve, ladle the soup into small glasses, cups or mugs. Drizzle on a little olive oil, top with the crispy crumbs, and serve.
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