This dish originated in southern Italy when food was scarce and beans were always available. My mom would often make this during Lent or on Friday nights when meat was not eaten. The beans should be canellini however if you only have red beans, I'll forgive you.
3 - 15 oz cans cannellini beans, divided
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 oz pancetta or approx 4 slices bacon, diced
3 cups water
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 3/4 cups ditalini pasta, uncooked
1 tsp kosher salt
Crushed red pepper flakes, optional
Drain TWO can of beans, and set aside. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and pancetta and saute until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and saute about 4 additional minutes.
Transfer sauteed ingredients to a blender or food processor and add the remaining 1 can of beans (liquid included). Puree until smooth. Add the pureed mixture back into the pot, along with the drained beans, the water and chicken broth, salt, and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Once the pasta is cooked, remove from heat. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Serve, topped with red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese, if you like.
Serve in soup bowls and drizzle with olive oil; not too much!
If the soup gets a little too thick as the pasta cooks. Just add some more broth or water to thin it out.
Note* I tweaked my mom's recipe for a thicker texture, as she did not puree any beans.
You may use baby shells or broken spaghetti.