When the temperatures soar to over 90 degrees F. most folks are not thinking about soups, but here in Italy many soups are served through the warmer months at room temperature, or just slightly warmer. In Tuscany as well as here in Umbria, many summer soups favor vegetables, legumes, grains, pasta, or a combination of these and are served with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a dollop of fresh pesto sauce, or some freshly grated cheese. These soups are a perfect choice on a warm evening paired with a crisp green salad and a loaf of crusty fresh baked bread as they are light, yet filling, and just happen to be very healthy for you too!
Although our garden is struggling through the intense summer heat, we are getting a nice crop of fresh borlotti beans. I gently sauteed my first picking to serve as a side dish, but decided to make this tasty soup with the next basket of beans I picked and it turned out really well. I had just made a batch of arugula pesto the day before so I used that in my soup, but basil pesto is more traditionally used. Do not salt the soup until the beans have completely cooked as salt will toughen their skins!
In a large saucepan heat the oil and over medium heat cook the pancetta until lightly browned. Add the carrot, onion, and celery and continue to cook until tender, then add the garlic and cook just a minute more. Add the borlotti beans, tomatoes, stock, parsley, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about two hours or until the beans are very tender and the soup has thickened. Season with salt and pepper and cool to just slightly warm before serving. Serve the soup in individual bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a dollop of fresh pesto, and a sprinkling of fresh grated cheese.