There are as many versions of vegetable soup in Italy as there are cooks. Pancetta - Pancetta is the same cut of pork as bacon. It is cured with salt and is not smoked. It comes rolled up like a large salami. Widely used in Italian cooking, especially in Emilia-Romagna, it is vital to many dishes. If available, buy a large quantity. Cut into several pieces and freeze it. You can substitute domestic bacon for pancetta. It must be blanched in boiling water for two three minutes to reduce the smoky flavor. Fresh side pork can also be used. I'll be posting several recipes over the next while that call for pancetta, so if you can find some, it won't go to waste.
Prepare chicken broth (see my previously posted recipe). Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add parsley and garlic. Saute over medium heat. Before garlic changes color, add pancetta. Saute until lightly browned. Stir in cabbage. Cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining vegetables to saucepan. Cover and cook about 5 minutes. Add broth and water, if using, and prosciutto rind or ham shank. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 40 to 50 minutes. Remove half the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Place in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Return to saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese sprinkled over top. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
VARIATION: Toast about 20 thick slices of Italian bread. Place 2 slices in each soup bowl and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Ladle soup into bowls. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.