While visiting our parents during the holidays we were reminded of how rare it is to see a toddler spit out sweets in favor of things like grape tomatoes. During one holiday party our son's eating habits were the topic of conversation. Many commented on how lucky we are and went on to share stories about this or that child that only ate pizza or hamburgers for months on end. Indeed we have a "good little eater" and today's meal was one of his ultimate favorites. Meaning he ate his share, pushed the strawberries aside, and ate another half serving before stopping.
1 12 oz can of white beans such as Great Northern
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound pancetta (Italian cured pork belly, available at Italian markets and specialty foods shops) or sliced lean bacon, chopped
3 T olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 rib of celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 zucchini, scrubbed, halved and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
16-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes (I seeded and squeezed each one in my hands before adding to the soup)
4 1/2 cups chicken broth (preferably low-salt)
1 2-inch hunk of parmesan cheese rind
2 cups of any small pasta
freshly grated Parmesan, garlic bruschetta, and dry-cured sausages as accompaniments
In a heavy kettle cook the pancetta in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until it is crisp and pale golden, add the onion, and cook the mixture, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the carrots, the celery, and the garlic and cook the mixture, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the broth and simmer the soup, covered, for 1 hour. Add the beans, zucchini, and pasta and boil for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
This soup can be made days in advance (it actually enhances the flavor) and kept covered and chilled. Reheat the soup, thinning it with water or more broth as desired. Serve the soup with the Parmesan, the bruschetta, and the sausages. Makes about 10 cups, serving 6 to 8.