This recipe comes from Anthony Giglio, who’s a bit of a Renaissance man, with an encyclopedic knowledge of wine, the storytelling abilities of a bard, and the generosity of a saint. It’s a hearty dish, a favorite of his Neapolitan grandmothers, who made this cucina povera staple whenever cranberry beans were fresh in the markets.
In a large soup pot or saucepot over medium-high heat, saute onion in olive oil until golden. Add carrot and celery, stirring to coat well, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Push vegetables to the edges of the pot and add pork ribs, browning them gently on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir well, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil; then lower heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes.
Add beans, stir well, and cook 5 minutes. Add broth, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Remove meat from bones, chop meat roughly, and return to soup. (Discard bones.) Scoop out half the beans and pass through a food mill over the pot, or pulse in a blender and return to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make sure soup is liquid enough to handle the pasta; if it’s a little thick, add ½ cup of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and stir frequently to prevent sticking. (The soup will thicken as the pasta absorbs the liquid.) Remove from heat when pasta is al dente (just before it’s cooked through), about 6 minutes.
Add butter and cheese and stir well. Ladle soup into warmed bowls and let rest at least 5 minutes; soup will thicken as it cools. Swirl olive oil in a circle over each bowl, and pass the pepper mill and a bowl of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.