We learned to make this deliciously flavoured and hearty soup in Perugia, Umbria from two companionable ladies who have been making it for many years, and eating it for longer. Of all the local dishes we learned to make with Nonie and Tita, this is the one I’ve made several times since, with the Umbrian-grown chickpeas we brought home with us while stocks lasted, and latterly with ones imported from elsewhere. It’s a keeper: simple to make, nutritious and economical, filling without being too caloric, extremely satisfying and interesting — it tastes even better the day after it’s made (and freezes well, too). It exactly suits my requirements at the moment, making a reluctant entry into winter a little easier to bear.
Using the cooking liquid from the chickpeas as the basis of the broth adds so much flavour, and makes one appreciate how good chickpeas (‘ceci’ in Italian) can be when they are grown well and get the attention they deserve in the kitchen. Dried chickpeas are the tastiest, but you do need to think ahead and give them a night (or day) to soak and then boil until tender before you can make this soup. As a speedy alternative you can use tinned, or for better flavour at a price, jarred chickpeas.
It’s the generous addition of rosemary, in company with garlic, bay leaf, a little chilli pepper, and an excellent olive oil, that elevates this soup from a bland bean soup to something to look forward to. As with much of the best Italian food, it relies on a few excellent ingredients, the cultural knowledge of what flavours enhance each other, and what cooking methods will bring out their best. We learned several tips and techniques from our hosts, and were astonished at the flavours they managed to extract from these few basic ingredients. [Read More…]