In a large pot set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the pancetta and fry until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate. Add the onion, celery, and carrot to the pot and cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add the beef stock, water, diced tomatoes, beans, potato, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, salt, oregano, thyme, and some black pepper. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the greens and dry pasta and keep cooking for 15 minutes.
SERVING: Fish out the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind out of the soup. To make winter minestrone truly special, garnish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil, a dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a few leaves of Italian parsley. Serve with crusty bread.
STORAGE: Divide the winter minestrone between airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
DAIRY-FREE OPTION: To make dairy-free minestrone,omit the parmesan from the recipe. Serve dairy-free winter minestrone sprinkled with nutritional yeast for a lovely boost in flavor.
VEGAN OPTION: To make vegan winter minestrone, omit the pancetta and parmesan from the recipe, and make sure to use vegetable broth. Serve vegan winter minestrone sprinkled with nutritional yeast for a lovely boost in flavor.
If you buy wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano, never throw away the rinds! Once you’ve used all the cheese, collect the rinds in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container in the freezer to use later. A single piece of rind adds a ton of flavor and depth to Italian wedding soup. If you don’t have saved rinds but have a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand, you can simply cut off the rind to add it to the soup. If you don’t have either, you can simply omit it from the recipe.
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