Pasta e Fagioli, meaning “pasta and beans,” is a traditional Italian meatless dish that has also been referred to as a “peasant” dish, because the ingredients are so inexpensive. While this version is meatless, it calls for salt pork to add a deeper, meaty flavor to the soup; adding it is completely up to you. — Allison Beck
Heat oil over medium in a large Dutch oven; add onion. Cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, smash garlic, fennel, and pepper flakes together. Tie bay leaves and rosemary together with kitchen twine. Stir garlic mixture into onions. Add beans, salt pork, bay leaf bundle, and 12 cups water to pot; bring to a boil. Cover and transfer pot to a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.
Remove pot from oven; stir in tomatoes. Season soup generously with salt and pepper. Cover and return soup to oven until beans are very tender, about 1-1 ½ hours more (ideally, let the soup cool down and transfer pot to your refrigerator to sit overnight, allowing the flavors to blend further).
About 10 minutes before serving, add kale and pasta to simmering soup; cook until tender, about 10 minutes. To store, transfer soup to freezer containers without the addition of pasta. Cook the pasta in the soup when reheating it.