Compare this Savoy cabbage soup from Bergamo, in Lombardy, with the one from Romagna. They both start with the cabbage and end with the Parmesan, but what different roads they travel in between! This one is spicier, thanks to the pancetta; more aromatic, courtesy of the celery; and faintly muskier, a quality derived from the chickpeas.
I have left the choice of dried or canned chickpeas to the reader. For reasons I can’t fathom, the canned are excellent, often better than the dried, which can be variable. When it comes to other legumes such as cannellini or cranberry beans or lentils, if I have the choice, I prefer to use the dried rather than the canned kind because their consistency and flavor are so much better. Nevertheless, given the impulsive, unpremeditated nature of Italian cooking, if there is no time for soaking and cooking dried beans, I’d sooner use canned ones than forgo making the dish.
One step I don’t try to save time on is peeling chickpeas. It’s not such a nuisance as it may seem and goes very quickly once you get the knack of squeezing the peel off between thumb and forefinger, and the result is a soup free of the pesky, papery, distractingly dry, and wholly useless bits of peel. Nothing belongs in what you eat that doesn’t bring some pleasure.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.