Cut the vegetables into large chunks to make it easier to manage in the food processor. Use the pulse function to process the vegetables into small chunks. If you don’t have a food processor you can cut these vegetables into very small pieces.
Warm the olive oil in a soup pan and add the vegetables. Cook until they start to soften, about 4 minutes.
Add the beans and stir to coat with the vegetables juices.
Add chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Check to make sure the beans are soft. Take a couple of spoonfuls of the bean mixture and put in the food processor. Blend until smooth and stir it back into the soup pot. This helps make a thick and creamy soup. (This step is optional.)
Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme, and sherry. Continue to cook on simmer for another half hour.
Add dry pasta. Use a small shape for this. We used Mafalda, which is short curly ribbons, but you can use any small-shaped pasta. Don’t be tempted to add too much pasta. It won’t look like much as you add it, but it will expand, and will keep absorbing the liquid from the soup.
Cook until the pasta is al dente. Mafalda takes about 6 minutes. Follow the instructions on your pasta package.
Serve hot with crusty Italian bread.