Heat the olive oil in a 4-qt. low-sided soup pot or Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and pancetta and sauté until the onion is softened and both are browned, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the escarole and stir thoroughly to coat the leaves (and to deglaze the pan slightly with their moisture). Season with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Add the stock, stir well, and bring to a boil; cover the pot, lower to a simmer, and cook 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover the pot, add the beans, and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Ladle the soup into four shallow soup bowls and top each with 1 Tbs. of the cheese and a quarter of the croutons.
Heat 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups (lightly packed) 3/4-inch cubes of bread, cut from a good, airy, crusty loaf like ciabatta. Stir to coat the cubes with the oil, season with salt, and sauté, stirring constantly, until crisp and browned on most sides, 2 to 4 minutes.
nutrition information (per serving):
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Photo: Steve Hunter