As a young man shopping in Boston's North End, a historically Italian neighborhood, chef Peter Pastan would watch customers at his local Italian market ask for the prosciutto skin. He had no idea what they did with it. Today he cures his own meats at his restaurants, then uses prosciutto skin to flavor and thicken soups like this tomatoey fresh shell bean soup. While the skin is optional here, it's easy to obtain—sometimes for free—from delis and meat counters. Plus:  More Soup Recipes and Tips 

October 2008


Credit: © Victoria Pearson

Recipe Summary test

1 hr
1 hr 45 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the pancetta and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 4 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, onion, fennel, parsley, rosemary and basil and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 10 minutes.

  • Add the tomatoes, beans, potatoes and prosciutto skin to the casserole and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just heated through, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat until the beans are tender, about 40 minutes. Discard the prosciutto skin and the herb sprigs.

  • Partially mash the beans with a potato masher, or transfer 2 cups of the soup to a food processor or food mill and puree; return the puree to the casserole. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with the celery leaves and serve.


Any combination of fresh shell beans can be used. Cooking time will vary according to the variety of bean.

Serve With

Crusty bread.

Suggested Pairing

Pastan's fresh, lightly earthy shell bean soup pairs well with Pinot Noir, which often has a similarly earthy character. Sashi Moorman's Evening Land Vineyards makes a range of terrific Pinots. Another good choice is the lively, ruby-colored Samsara Melville Vineyard Pinto Noir.