Drain the soaked borlotti beans. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and pancetta and cook until softened. Stir in the potato and herbs, then add the drained beans. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 1½ hours.
Rinse the pearl barley in a sieve, then drain and add to the pan. Continue to cook at a gentle simmer on a low heat for a further 1¼ hours. Check that the beans and barley are cooked before removing from the heat (if they’re not, cook for longer).
When it’s ready, serve the soup ladled into bowls, with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan for an extra rich hit.
© 2012 All rights reserved. Published by Atlantic Books.