Cover the soaked beans with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Skim, and add the garlic, chilli and bay leaves and simmer for about 1 hour or until nearly tender.
Check if the beans are nearly tender, then transfer them to the casserole with a slotted spoon or spider. (Do not throw away their liquor.) Pick out the chilli and garlic, chop them (after discarding the garlic skins), then add to the casserole. Stir all this together then add enough of the bean cooking liquor to just cover everything. Stir again. Cover the casserole and
Remove from the oven and set aside for 15 minutes to allow the casserole to reduce to sub-volcanic temperatures. Remove the lid at the table. The beans should not need seasoning, the pancetta and chilli will have seen to that.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.