Zuppa di Ceci

Today Ann and I joined two friends for a “burgers and beers” lunch at a downtown spot.   Since we had a larger than usual lunch, we wanted something lighter for dinner.

Soup came immediately to mind.  But I’m not all that thrilled with canned soups.  The day’s schedule didn’t leave time for a big, made from scratch production so I threw a dart and checked out one of my favorite cookbooks, Marcella Hazan‘s The Essentials of Italian Cooking.  I had a sense Marcella might have a suggestion.

If I haven’t already talked about Marcella, she is to Italian cooking what Julia Child was to French cuisine. Before “Molto” Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, Marcella was setting the bar high for American’s who wanted to learn authentic, classic Italian techniques for food preparation. 

Hazan’s first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italians Art of Eating, was published in 1973.  My soft cover copy is tattered and worn from use.  And my hardcover copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (her first two books combined and updated in 1992) is starting to show wear and tear as well.

Thumbing through the soups I decided to try Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea soup).

It sounded good, would take less than an hour and I was pretty sure we had everything needed already on hand.*

Indeed, the soup was easy to put together from basically healthy ingredients.  It was satisfying without laying heavy on the palate or the stomache. 

Marcella didn’t let me down.

Here’s my take on her recip. Keep it handy and the ingredients in the pantry and I think you’ll agree: quick, easy, satisfying.

Zuppa di ceci

Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea Soup)
Serves 4 (as a starter, 2 as the main course)

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely crushed rosemary leaves
  • red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 2/3 cup canned Italian tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes), roughly chopped, with their juice (up to 1/3 cup of additional juice).
  • 1 19 oz can chickpeas
  • 1 cup beef or vegetable broth
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • salt, if necessary

1. Place oil and garlic in cold, medium-sized sauce pan. Saute over medium-high heat until the garlic is well browned. Remove garlic and discard. 

2.  Add the rosemary (and the red pepper if using) to the oil, stir then add the chopped tomatoes with their juice. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes separate from the oil.

3. Add the drained chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes , turning them in the sauce. Add the broth and bring to a boil and cover and keep at a steady, moderate boil for 15 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and add freshly ground pepper. Serve hot. (We hit each bowl with a touch of freshly grated pecorino romano. But the soup is good without it.)

*Actually, I didn’t have any canned, whole San Marzano Italian tomatoes or chickpeas in the cupboard.  But I knew I was heading out on errands and could easily locate the needed ingredients.  I’ll be sure to keep those items in stock going forward.

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