Pasta Soup with Potatoes and Pancetta

Pasta Soup with Potatoes, Pancetta and Leeks Recipe

Many people would never associate pasta and potato, but in this case, you’re really going to have to trust me. This recipe has been in my family for more than 50 years, and considering that so far there’ve been two chefs in the family, it must be fantastico! Make sure you use a mealy potato like a russet. [Editor’s Note: The word “mealy” in conjunction with potatoes may, for some, have undesirable associations. Although in this recipe, mealy is actually quite coveted given the lovely richness and thickness it lends to the consistency of this soup.]–Gino D’Acampo

LC Like Bacon for Pancetta? Note

We’ve a wee caveat to share with anyone tempted to substitute bacon for pancetta in this pantry-minded recipe. While that swap works in some recipes, we don’t encourage trying it here. Pancetta’s sturdy texture and meatiness handily withstand being simmered in this soupy stew without becoming limpid and soggy. Sadly, the same can’t be said about bacon, which turns flabby. Save it for frying up in a pan.

Pasta Soup with Potatoes, Pancetta and Leeks Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large leek, washed and finely chopped
  • 9 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 14 ounces mealy potatoes, such as russets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (2 small potatoes or 1 very large one)
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) hot vegetable stock (or substitute homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth, beef, or duck stock)
  • 3 tablespoons canned chopped tomatoes, drained, or more to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) farfalline or another soup pasta (or even spaghetti, broken into bits)
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • 1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté the leek and pancetta for about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and potato and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for another 2 minutes.
  • 2. Pour in the stock, lower the heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  • 3. Add the chopped tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring every 2 minutes, until the pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes.
  • 4. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Immediately ladle the soup into bowls.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Jan 15, 2013

WOW. Not sure where to start. This was a nice, hearty yet light soup that warmed up everyone’s hearts tonight. It’s very easy to make and can so easily be adapted to ingredients you may have at home, even though in this case I followed it to a T. There is something about this soup that screams Italian. We were six, and we still had leftovers for hubby to take to work.

Testers Choice
Jackie G.

Jan 15, 2013

I was actually surprised at just how much we liked this soup. It was extremely quick and easy to put together. Using top-quality ingredients, in a recipe where the ingredient list is not long, really made this dish taste fresh, clean, and pure. I had questioned how the pancetta would cook by just sautéeing it for three minutes with the leeks and then another two minutes with the potatoes. I use pancetta quite often, and usually cook the pancetta till it is brown or caramelized. I was concerned that I would not like the result, but wanted to try the recipe as written. This is another case of needing to have an open mind. The pancetta in the finished product was more like some very, very good ham which imparted great flavor to the broth. I used a really good organic chicken broth. The 14 ounces of potatoes ended up being 1 1/2 large potatoes. The nine ounces of pasta was much less than 2 1/4 cups; it was about 1 1/2 cups’ worth. Throwing the Parm in off the heat at the end really added to the wonderful taste and texture. The three tablespoons of chopped canned tomatoes seemed like an afterthought. I don’t know if it was mostly to add a touch of color, because that small amount of tomatoes in two quarts of stock, along with the vegetables, doesn’t really make a difference in taste. However, the end result was so good, that I may just throw in just the three tablespoons when I make this again, and I will make it again. The only change I made to the recipe was throwing a piece of Parmesan rind in when I added the broth to the pot. We have a bag of Parmesan rinds in the freezer, and this seemed like a good time to use one. It was!

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Jan 15, 2013

This soup achieved such depth of flavor with such humble ingredients. The smoky pancetta infuses the potatoes with a great flavor. Fourteen ounces of potatoes comes out to about two small russets. Both the carrots and potatoes maintain just enough bite after simmering and they do not disintegrate when you place them in your mouth. I used chicken stock in my soup. It produced a rich, silky broth with lots of flavor. Shells are my pasta of choice for soups, and they were perfect for this one. I served this to a group of soup haters and each one of them had seconds. The recipe works exactly as written, so no guesswork. It comes together easily for a dinner after a busy day. This is a wonderful, delicious soup.

Testers Choice
Joel Jenkins

Jan 15, 2013

Excellent! It’s a very simple recipe that’s easy to follow with exceptional results. I would caution the cook to go easy on the “salt to taste.” Leave it a little bit lacking until after you add the Parmesan cheese, or you risk making it too salty. I think that you could use Yukon Gold, or another less starchy potato, for some texture without losing any taste. (Just a thought.)

Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

Jan 15, 2013

A great, hearty, warming soup for a cold winter’s night. I highly recommend eating it with the suggested warm crusty bread, as it went so well with the soup. I used toasted and lightly buttered Italian bread. I used bacon instead of pancetta since it’s more budget- friendly and, of course, easier to find in our area. Since I already had chicken stock on hand, I used that in place of the vegetable stock, but I’m sure the latter would have been just as good. Two medium-ish russet potatoes gave me the desired 14 ounces. I was able to find farfalline. I loved having both pasta and potato in the soup and enjoyed the flavor the Parmesan and leek lent the soup, as well as the color and flavor of the carrot. Not sure how much impact three tablespoons of canned tomatoes gave the soup; next time I might just add the whole can–minus the juice, of course–to save on waste.

Testers Choice
Helen Doberstein

Jan 15, 2013

Soup and pasta–what could be better? While I didn’t have a chance to get out to the store to get actual pancetta, I did substitute a leaner bacon already on hand. The instructions are easy to follow, and the ingredients aren’t complicated. Using the potatoes I had on hand, 1 1/2 medium-large potatoes made just a touch over the 14 ounces asked for. I used three cups of low-sodium chicken broth and five cups water. And I found an alphabet pasta. I thought only three tablespoons tomatoes seemed chintzy, so I added a couple more tablespoons since they were in big chunks and I think that it’s a little wasteful to open a tin just for a few tablespoons of chopped tomato. It would be just as easy to dice a couple fresh tomatoes.

All said and done, my family and I really liked the soup. I think when I make this again, I will either add the whole tin of tomatoes or dice some fresh tomatoes. Also, I think pancetta is probably the better way to go. The bacon is nice, but the pancetta would be firmer. Just as a final note, the pasta absorbed most of the broth by the next morning and made a sort of pasta stew for lunch. A little fresh Parmesan and broth made for a tasty second meal.

Testers Choice
Patton C.

Jan 15, 2013

I thought it was excellent when first served, but within 15 minutes the pasta had absorbed much of the broth. By the next day, I had to add two more cups of broth, and even more the third day (it makes a lot of soup!). The leftovers definitely were not as tasty as the first night.

Testers Choice
Marilee Johnson

Jan 15, 2013

This soup had great flavor and consistency. I used bacon, but didn’t like the fact that it didn’t have enough time to crisp up, per the recipe. Maybe pancetta would have reacted differently. I like crisp bacon, not limp, fatty bacon. The texture was good with the potatoes and pasta,but I picked out a lot of the limp bacon. Next time, I would cook the bacon separately, remove it, and then continue with the recipe. I used three small, peeled potatoes that equaled 14 ounces on the scale.

Comments
Comments
  1. Judy R says:

    This soup rocks! It made a surprisingly large amount. Guess I didn’t picture the amounts correctly. I didn’t have pancetta but did have some left over ham from a boiled dinner, so slivered some of that and added a drop or two of liquid smoke (Be cautious with it). Like one of the testers said I really didn’t want open a can of tomatoes for the little bit needed, so I stewed a couple fresh tomatoes that were getting “passay” (passé or past their best). Since there are just two of us I had leftovers. I learned from experience of having bad soup leftovers to store any pasta soup seperately. It only takes a couple minutes to pour it through a strainer and store solids and broth separately. It was as good for lunch today! Thanks for the great recipe. Before I make it again I will make sure I have pancetta!

    • Julie Dreyfoos, LC Production Manager says:

      Judy, so glad you enjoyed this recipe, and what a great tip for separating the solids from the broth.

  2. Thomas In Long Beach says:

    There are many times when I think I must have been an Italian in a previous life.
    When I arrived at work today and I saw this recipe on the LC feed, it just felt like home. I needed something to help decompress after a particularly rough week and the thought of making this soup got me through yet another bumpy day. I knew that we had most of the ingredients at home but I wasn’t sure if we had everything in the right quantities. We only had 5 oz of pancetta (Fresh and Easy’s standard size) so I based the quantities of the other ingredients on the pancetta quantity. I had a leek and some carrots from the garden. I didn’t have enough chicken stock so I added some beef broth to that. I used a Yukon type potato and broke farfalle into smaller pieces. I used both Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese. It all came together and tasted like heaven. The weekend is here! Ciao e grazie.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Thomas, I can think of no lovelier way to start the weekend than reading your comment. Thanks for taking the time to write. Love your spirit of innovation. (Clearly you must have been an Italian in a previous life.) And may we just add, building everything else around the amount of pork in a recipe is pretty much a rule to live by, I think.

  3. Sita Krishnaswamy says:

    This was a very delicious and flavorful soup. Like the tester I was a little concerned about
    sautéing the pancetta for only three minutes. I usually caramelise mine. But nevertheless the
    flavors and the textures were quite right in this one. I had just opened a can of tomato paste for another recipe which called only for a tablespoon, so I threw in about three tbsps of tomato paste in there in addition to the three tablespoons of tomatoes. That did the trick. The only gaffe was that I did add two cups of pasta, which was way too much. It became more like a thick stew very quickly. And 14 ounces of potatoes were two medium ones. I had just made homemade chicken stock so that indeed dada great flavor to the soup. This is an easy recipe to whip up even on a week night. The only change I would make is to add way less pasta, maybe a cup, and the addition of tomato paste.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Appreciate you sharing your tweaking, Sita. It seems everyone we know who’s made this classic Italian soup has their own way with it, and I love that it’s so eminently variable and yet so unfailingly pleasing. And yes, made-from-scratch stock makes EVERYTHING better, does it not?

      • Sita krishnaswamy says:

        Yes Renee nothing like homemade chicken or veggie stock to make everything just perfect.

  4. may says:

    Amazing recipe!! Thanks for this. I have a feeling this will become a regular on the dinner table. The only thing I have to add is that when I have pasta with my soup, I typically make it on the side and throw it into the bowls before serving. I never finish my soup in one go. And then I don’t run the risk of soggy pasta floating around.

    Thank you again so much for this delicious recipe. I love it and I love discovering your site.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      May, welcome! And thank you, that’s terrific advice, makes perfect sense. As someone else commented just yesterday, keeping the pasta separate from the soup ’till the last minute ensures that any leftovers are equally lovely and not at all gummy. We look forward to hearing your response to other recipes…

  5. Esther says:

    It sounds wonderful! Do you think I can make a day or two ahead? Could I refrig or freeze? I would not add the pasta until just before serving… Having company and would love to make ahead…Any suggestions for something else to serve along w/this? I thought salad…crisp baguette…pizza? Anyone have any thoughts to share?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Morning, Esther. This soup keeps beautifully in the fridge, so yes, as long as you keep the pasta separate, I think you’ll be quite fine. I wouldn’t freeze it, not if you’re holding it for just a day or two. As for what to serve alongside, I think some lovely artisanal bread would be sufficient, although let’s open this up to everyone else who’s made this recipe before…suggestions?

    • Testers Choice says:

      Good morning Esther, I would go with some nice crispy baguette as you suggested. A simple salad to start is always a nice thing too. This soup is a meal in itself so I would not bother with anything else than that! Cannot wait for you to try it as I am sure you will absolutely love it.

  6. Sita Krishnaswamy says:

    The soup is a meal in itself, although I did serve a nice crisp Caesar Salad with it with homemade croutons brushed just with extra virgin olive oil and homemade bacon bits. It complemented the flavors of the soup beautifully. It is a delicious soup, I am sure you will enjoy it. Just adjust the amount of pasta you add to the soup. (I decreased the amount; see my earlier comment.) Hope you enjoy it, Esther.

  7. Jackie G. says:

    Hello there Esther! We have enjoyed this wonderful soup with some crusty bread, some garlic bread, a green salad, and once, with a fennel and orange salad that I like to make. It may sound strange, but we had the ingredients, and it sounded like a refreshing contrast to the soup. It really worked. Mind you, we did not have all of those at one time. The soup is that good. You’ll be making it more than once, so you can experiment with the sides. Please let everyone know what you decided on, and how you liked it.

  8. Esther says:

    My sincere thanks to you all…we are a family that loves to eat and leftovers are always enjoyed ! So this is what I am thinking …
    To welcome with wine and cheeses …
    Sit down to a Stuffed Artichoke … (breadcrumbs, oil, garlic, stems, s&p)
    Soup and salad and crusty bread … (fennel and orange salad sounds great or something similar … any suggestions ?)
    Dessert .. something light and simple (would love to make pots de creme but thinking it is a bit too heavy and too rich …
    Maybe a nice ice cream and/or sorbet with cookies …?
    Would love your thoughts …

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Sounds lovely, Esther. I do like the sounds of that orange and fennel salad. As for dessert, a simple gelato sounds nice, although I dare say I doubt pots de creme would be too heavy. Anyone have any other suggestions?

    • Jackie G. says:

      I agree about something light and refreshing for dessert. A gelato or sorbet with thin, crispy cookies, perhaps a gingersnap or lemon cookie to scoop the gelato up with. I have been on a lemon kick lately, and have been enjoying lemon pudding cakes as well as a lemon souffle. I made this not too long ago, and it was wonderful. http://leitesculinaria.com/11524/recipes-lemon-souffle.html Esther, you got me thinking about thin, crispy cookies. These are addictive. Although not exactly “light” they are really good, and might be nice with a gelato. (Or good to eat while you are scooping the gelato into bowls.) http://leitesculinaria.com/78677/recipes-ultra-thin-chocolate-chunk-cookies.html

  9. Esther says:

    Thank you so much…Love all the support, ideas, and recipes (wonderful!) I received…I am new to this site but for sure will be back…Will let you know final choices and how dinner turned out…Esther

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      We’ll be waiting, Esther! And don’t forget to have a lovely time amidst all the cooking and thinking…

  10. MarthaC says:

    This is very similar to Sopa Mexicana. Made pretty much the same way with or without add-ins. I will try your version, as it sounds very tasty.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, MarthaC. We hadn’t thought of the similarity, but you’re of course right. We’ll be waiting to hear what you think…

  11. I’d probably add (or sub the potatoes for) chickpeas but I love the simplicity of this dish. I would imagine the pancetta adds a lot to the dish. I think my son would even eat this up!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Yeah, this is one of those recipes that seems to take really quite well to a little futzing and frumping and other sorts of swapping of ingredients…we hope your guy likes it as much as we do! Let us know how it goes, We Are Never Full. (What a swell name!)

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      We Are Never Full, pancetta works wonders for almost everything, doesn’t it? It’s sort of a miracle food in my world. Let us know how you (and your son!) like the soup if you give it a try.

  12. Esther says:

    Kudos to all!!
    Such a success!! Everyone loved the soup…
    I confess I was a little nervous about cooking the pancetta for 3 minutes so I cooked it for 4+ minutes along with the leek. I went to the butcher and asked for 9 ounces of pancetta and he gave me 14 ounces. He offered to recut but I thought to myself, you could never have too much pancetta.
    This recipe is a treasure. It was delicious!! I could see adding white beans or other ingredients, but I pretty much stayed with the ingredients as listed. I always keep the pasta separate from soup until serving as mentioned above. We all really loved it. I offered my son the leftover soup and he called me Sunday to say he was reheating and couldnt wait to have again. I made the pots de creme without straining. I have to say, this recipe is another treasure…I didnt really get or see any large bumps and I doubt that would have taken away from the taste of this fabulous dessert!!
    Kudos to you all…I am very grateful for all your comments!!
    Esther

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Esther, could you hear our collective sigh of relief? So wonderful to hear that things went so well, many thanks for letting us know. And yes, words to live by: You can never have too much pancetta!

  13. Josie Smith says:

    I made this recently exactly as per the exact instructions and was rewarded with an extremely satisfying and flavourful soup. The soup now has a place in our regular roster of recipes. Thanks so much!

  14. Deb russell says:

    Such a fantastic soup. My whole family of five licked their lips, scraped the bowl and demanded a repeat asap. Cant be bad.
    Deb

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Deb, that must have been so gratifying! Seconds on soup all around sounds like a job well done.

  15. Mike says:

    I don’t have access to pancetta but otherwise live in porcine paradise. What, other than bacon, would be a good substitute?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Mike, we want to hear more about this porcine paradise of yours…! We haven’t tried it with anything else, so I can’t guarantee that this will still taste like a hug from an Italian nonna, I’m thinking a lesser amount of salt pork, which like pancetta is cured but not smoked, may work well. Just be mindful of how much salt you add to the soup. Or if you can get your hands on some thickly sliced prosciutto that’s not too expensive, that’d probably work wonders, too. Kindly let us know what you decide and how it goes….

  16. christine jones says:

    I am one of those few people who is not a big fan of tomatoes—the flavor yes, the actual tomato no. This soups sounds delicious. Could I use tomato paste at some point in the recipe for the flavor substituting for the canned tomatoes?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Christine, I think that you could definitely tweak this recipe to your liking using tomato paste. Let us know how you made this soup “your own”.

  17. Sita Krishnaswamy says:

    Mike,

    if you don’t want to use American or Canadian bacon, you could try salt pork, smoked ham, smoked sausages, or proscuitto, if you have access to these.

    Please post what you used! thanks Sita

  18. Susan says:

    Could you make this a non-meat soup (no pancetta) or would it just lose its flavor and specialness and I may as well not bother? Or would this be good without it? Thanks!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Susan, the pancetta lends a complexity and depth of flavor to the soup that we really like. We haven’t tried it without it, so we can’t say for certain, although I think there’s sufficient oomph and goodness in the remaining ingredients to come together quite nicely even without the pork. Let us know what you think….

      • Sita Krishnaswamy says:

        Hi Susan. If you made this without the meat, then would you consider adding some dried herbs like thyme, oregano, and basil and finishing it off with some chopped fresh herbs like parsley or ones of your choice? Or you can make a bouquet garni of your favorite herbs and remove them before serving. You can even add some heat to it with dried or fresh chili peppers. Please let us know how you made your vegetarian version.

  19. AdriBarr says:

    What a wonderful soup, and so representative, too, of the cucina casalinga, home cooking, of Italy. I remember soups like this as a kid. When I’d see the brodo di pollo come out of the freezer and spy Mom’s big orange pot on the stove and smell the pancetta browning, I know there was zuppa in the future. It might have been pasta e fagioli, pasta e ceci, or any one of a number of these marvels, but it was always satisfying to both stomach and soul, and that kiss of tomato, so typical of Italy’s Mezzogiorno, always added just the right flavor note. Grazie per le memorie!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      It’s our pleasure, AdriBarr. Was worth it just to hear you reminisce about your Mom making zuppa…what a wonderful upbringing you had! Many thanks for sharing it with such enthusiasm and eloquence….

  20. Emilie says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and we all LOVED it. Went by the recipe except added a few more tablespoons of chopped tomatoes, a squirt of tomato paste (the tube kind), and a Parmesan rind. I weighed the dry pasta to make sure the amount was correct, but it did seem like there wasn’t enough broth for everything else that was left. Fortunately I used homemade chicken stock, so it was easy to add some to the broth after the fact and I’m sure the taste wasn’t altered. The other thing that was interesting was our spoons got pretty gummy about halfway through the bowlful of suop, apparently because of thePparmesan. But I’m not sure if it was because I simmered it with a rind or because of the grated Parmesan that was added at the end. It wasn’t a big deal—but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. If it was because of the Parm at the end, I’m wondering if it could be because what I used was finely grated in the food processor rather than a more coarse grate/shred? Anyway, thanks to the previous reviews, I strained the broth from the other ingredients and so have two beautiful containers in my fridge right now, ready to be joined together in delicious matrimony for tomorrow’s lunch:) Thanks for another great recipe!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Emilie, many thanks for taking the time to drop us a note. So pleased to hear that you like the soup. As for the spoon situation, it could be either or both reasons you suggest. I’ve experienced that with other soups when I’ve simmered them with a Parmesan rind and left the rind in until it was really gummy and had given up all its flavor. Anyone else have this experience? And Emilie, we look forward to hearing which recipe you make next….

      • Emilie says:

        I already know which one I’m going to make next, Renee. The chocolate sour cream bundt cake. Tomorrow. It’s one of my go-to cakes (so easy…so chocolaty…so everything!!). I was thinking just tonight when I slurped my last spoonful of soup how that would be the perfect finish to the meal. Plus it just gets better the longer it sits!!

  21. Grace says:

    I would love to know if anyone tried this with duck stock???

  22. Stacy says:

    I made this soup last night using Pancetta from my local friends at Corti Brothers. The flavor was marvelous and we thoroughly enjoyed it on its own for dinner on a rainy night. I do wish I had let the pancetta cook to a bit more of a crisp state and would do so next time.

    Also, I’m not sure if I added a bit too much pasta, but by day 2, the leftovers had transformed into a sort of a pasta dish rather than a soup. The pasta had sucked up all of the broth, as pasta is wont to do. Therefore, I might also reduce the amount of pasta next time for the sake of leftovers.

    • Beth Price says:

      Yes, Stacy, that pasta can suck up all the broth. I would try your suggestion of adding less pasta or have a few friends over and finish it in one sitting!

  23. Country ham is a good substitute for cooked recipes calling for a dab of prosciutto or pancetta. It can’t be sliced elegantly like prosciutto and is saltier than pancetta, but it isn’t smoked and adds a good flavor. I think it would work in this soup. I am a long distance from a store with fine meats, and have learned to make do.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Love the way you’re thinking, Mary. And I suspect others will, too. Appreciate you taking the time to share your helpful trick.

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