Chickpea, Celery, and Porcini Soup with Pecorino Cheese

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

This fine recipe employs the same cooking method described in the preceding recipe, with the addition of orégano, celery, and porcini, an extra swirl of fresh fruity olive oil, and a few curls of pecorino cheese added just before serving. It was inspired by a soup served at the restaurant Oasis in the mountains of Irpinia in Campania. Members of the Fischetti family, who run the restaurant, are adamant about preserving the old culinary traditions of their region. In fact, the motto of the restaurant is “sapori antichi” or “old-fashioned flavors.” The whole family chips in. Maria Luisa Fischetti cooks; Mamma Giuseppina makes the pasta; her brothers Puccio and Nicola watch over the dining room; and Papa Generoso gardens and provides fresh vegetables and herbs.

When Maria Luisa and Puccio came to the United States to teach at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley, I had a chance to work with them, observe their talent and devotion, and, of course, taste their simple yet delicious food: authentic flavorful chewy pastas—and soups punctuated with shots of hot red pepper.

I was especially inspired and charmed by this one, and the white bean soup with escarole, each proving that long, slow cooking and the use of excellent ingredients can result in food one never tires of eating.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • Salt
  • ½ ounce dried porcini (about ½ cup)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 imported bay leaves
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the table
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and grated in a food processor
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups thinly sliced tender celery ribs
  • teaspoon Italian or Greek orégano
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of hot pepper flakes
  • cups curls of mild sheep’s milk cheese such as Sardinian pecorino, Cacto di Roma, or if unavailable, a Spanish manchego

Method

  1. Soak the chickpeas in plenty of cold water with the baking soda and a pinch of salt for about 12 hours. Soak the porcini with the sugar in 1 cup warm water; refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas; rinse thoroughly, place in a clay pot, add the bay leaves, 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, a pinch of salt, the onion, and enough water to cover the peas by 1 inch, about 6 cups. Cover tightly and bake.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a deep heavy pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute. Toss in the celery and orégano and cook, stirring, until glazed, about 2 minutes. Drain the porcini and chop into small pieces. Filter the soaking liquid. Add the porcini, its soaking liquid, the chickpeas, its cooking liquid, and 1 quart water and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 20 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with extra black pepper, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and curls of a mild sheep’s milk cheese. Pass a cruet of extra virgin olive oil at the table.