- 1 pound dried white beans, such as white kidney (cannellini) or great Northern, rinsed and picked over
- 1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 quarts Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth 
- 3/4 pound diced cooked chicken
- 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano, for garnish
Put the beans into a large pot or bowl. Add water to cover by 2 inches and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight, then drain. For a quick soak, bring the beans and water to a boil over high heat and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 1 hour. Drain.
Fry the bacon in a heavy medium stockpot over medium-high heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift onto paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pot. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots soften, about 1 minute.
Add the beans to the pot with the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in the chicken and the reserved bacon and heat through. Remove and discard bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Ladle into warm bowls and sprinkle with the grated cheese.