Soak the beans overnight. Drain, rinse, and sort them. Peel and coarsely CHOP the onion, garlic, and carrot. CHOP the celery.
Cook the vegetables in a large stockpot, over moderate heat, in olive oil until they are transparent. Add the beans, stock and the ham hock. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the beans are tender - about 3 hours.
Remove half the beans and purée in a blender. Return the purée to the soup and mix well. Add the pasta and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. It may be necessary to add some water if the soup is too thick. Mix well and cook until the pasta is "al dente," about 10 minutes. The soup should be quite thick.
CHOP the bacon and divide it among the bowls.
Ladle the soup over and drizzle, if desired, with olive oil. Offer Parmesan cheese on the side.
Notes: In some parts of Italy, olive oil is added to the soup just before serving. A bit of fresh chopped rosemary can also be added to season the soup.
Dried cannellini beans /300 g
Garlic clove 1
Celery stalk 1
Unsmoked ham hock 1
Beef stock (preferably home-made) 7 cups/
Dried macaroni, spaghetti or any soup pasta /200-250 g
Fatty bacon or pancetta 2 oz/
Olive oil 1/4 cup
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Stockpot with lid