Directions for Soup
1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot.
2. Add the bacon and cook for about 6 minutes over medium low heat until browned.
3. Add the onion, carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic, thyme, and a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper and stir to combine.
4. Raise the heat to medium and saute, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.
5. Next, add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands before you add them to the pot (if this sounds awful to you, you can dice them before adding them to the pot instead of squishing them with your hands, but beware of the juice!).
6. Pour in the chicken stock, the bay leaves, ½ cup of the white wine, and another generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Bring this to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
7. Once the soup has simmered and reduced a bit, discard the bay leaves.
8. Add the beans, the cooked pasta, and the kale, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer until the kale is tender. If the soup tastes a little one note, brighten it up with another ½ cup of wine.
9. Top with freshly grated pecorino or parmesan, croutons, and pesto & herbs if you like!
Directions for Croutons
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small food processor, blend the basil, garlic, oil, salt and pepper (the mixture should be chunky and not fully pureed).
3. Put the bread cubes in a bowl and pour the basil mixture over them, tossing to combine.
4. Add ½ cup of the cheese and more salt & pepper to taste.
5. Spread the cubes on a large baking sheet and bake for 10 - 15 minutes, tossing occasionally until the croutons have browned.
6. After removing from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of cheese.