How to Make It
In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the ham and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the bread crumbs, then add the beans and their liquid along with the thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
In a small bowl, crush the saffron threads into the water. Add to the beans and season with pepper. Simmer the soup over low heat for 15 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the clams and their reserved liquor and cook for 3 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Sprinkle the soup with the parsley and serve.
For a more rustic-looking soup, you could add the clams in their shells to the soup in Step 2 and cover the pot for 3 minutes or until the clams open. Serve the soup with an extra bowl for the shells. If you prefer to add the clams without their shells and want to avoid the cumbersome process of shucking them raw, steam them in an inch of water or white wine. Remove the clams from their shells and add them to the soup with their steaming liquid, simmering the soup only 1 minute more.