Zuppa di Ceci e Verdure

Chick-Pea Soup with Greens and Pasta

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    8

Appears in

The Mediterranean Kitchen

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 1998

  • About

This is one of those meals in a bowl in the tradition of stone soup. In fact in Portugal a version of this soup is called sopa de Pedra, after the folktale of the same name, where something wonderful is created out of very simple and inexpensive raw materials. Put the right humble ingredients together and what have you got? A great, soul-satisfying soup. Add some sausage and eliminate the pasta and you could be in Spain or Portugal.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried chick-peas (garbanzo beans)
  • 14 to 16 cups water for soaking and cooking the chick-peas
  • About 6 tablespoons fruity olive oil
  • ½ pound pancetta or prosciutto ends (a bone with meat left on it would be grand)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large onions, diced (3½ to 4 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 cups chiffonade or 3 by 1-inch strips of escarole or Swiss chard, rinsed well and drained
  • 2 to 3 cups Chicken Stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup small pasta shells, macaroni, or orecchiette
  • Grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese for serving

Method

Rinse the chick-peas and soak overnight in 6 cups water in the refrigerator. Drain and rinse.

Place half the chick-peas in a small pot and cover with 4 cups water. Heat to boiling and skim the scum from the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer covered until tender but not mushy (but not al dente either!), 45 to 50 minutes. Drain and toss with enough olive oil to coat them.

Place the remaining chick-peas, the pancetta, 2 whole cloves garlic, and half the onions in a larger pot. Add 4 to 6 cups water, enough to cover all ingredients. Heat to boiling and skim the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer covered until very, very soft, about an hour or more. Puree this mixture, removing the meat from the bone if using, in a blender until very smooth. If you must use a processor, puree all of the solids thoroughly, then add the cooking liquid and puree again. Remove any lumps that remain.

Heat about 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the remaining onion and cook about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute or two. Add the greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted and somewhat tender. Add the cooked chick-peas and the chick-pea puree and stir until blended. Stir in enough chicken stock to thin the soup. Heat through and season to taste with salt and pepper. I like this soup pretty peppery. You may not need much salt because of the prosciutto. (The soup can be made ahead up to this point.)

Just before serving, cook the pasta in a medium pot of lightly salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the hot soup. Serve immediately, sprinkled with grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese.