The first version has a rich flavor full of complexity from all the ingredients. Ma's "ditalini" is simple and clean--I could eat the whole potfull at a sitting. It could be made with a chicken broth base, but Ma put no meat or broth in it. She made it somewhat "soupier," my husband told me, and they would sometimes break up bread and put in it when they ate it. I can make it mostly from pantry ingredients and sometimes I substitute canned cannellini to make a really quick meal.
1/2 pound dry cannellini
1-1/2 quart water
3 Tblsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 minced onion
1/3 cup minced celery
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
Dash chili pepper
1/2 tsp salt or more, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked ditalini
1 Tblsp. butter
3 Tblsp. chopped fresh Italian Parsley
Grated Romano cheese (Or parmesan)
1. Wash beans and soak in 1-1/2 quart water overnight.
2. Next day, heat olive oil and saute garlic, onion and celery until soft.
3. Blend in tomato paste, chili pepper and pepper. Add beans and soaking water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hour, adding more water as needed to keep the consistency soupy. Add salt when beans are almost tender.
4. Meanwhile, cook ditalini until "al dente." Drain and toss with butter to prevent sticking.
5. When beans are tender, add ditalini and parsley and simmer 5 more minutes. Taste--add salt if needed. Top with cheese to serve.
Serves 4 to 6