This Italian Chickpea Soup Recipe is based on one found in Luigi Carnacina‘s Great Italian Cookbook: La Grande Cucina Inernazionale. It is one of the most amazing cookbooks I’ve ever seen and an education in the classic ways of cooking Italian food. Carnacina’s recipe for Chickpea Soup Romana calls for 2 cups dried chickpeas, first soaked in cold water overnight before cooking.
Cooking with Canned Chickpeas
I use canned chickpeas here, as they are already cooked and ready to eat out of the can – almost. The problem with canned chickpeas is textural. You can’t achieve the creamy texture that you get when cooking dried chickpeas, but you can get closer by actually “cooking” the canned version for a while. And that’s what I do here. The key to using canned chickpeas is to first thoroughly rinse them with cold water to get rid of any canning solution and possible tinny flavors. Put the chickpeas in a colander and run cold water over them until no more “foamy” water bubbles are present on the beans. You will see these bubbles gradually disappear as the water removes any residue from the peas.
Chickpeas vs Garbanzo Beans – Are they different?
If you didn’t know, chickpeas and garbanzo beans are one in the same legume, but are just called a different name depending on where you are. In Italy, chickpeas are called “ceci” (pronounced chetch-ee).
Anchovy Fillets add Flavor not “Fishiness”
This humble soup is a lot of fun to make and relies on olive oil, rosemary, garlic and some anchovies to flavor a large amount of chickpeas and pasta. The broth ends up tasting rich and meaty – almost like chicken broth – but not overwhelming with any one flavor. Whatever you do, don’t skip the anchovy fillets. This isn’t an anchovy pizza – the salty fish serve to enrich this soup and give it extra backbone without tasting fishy. My wife hates anchovies, but liked this soup very much. If you don’t have anchovy fillets, you can substitute anchovy paste. This recipes calls for 3 anchovy fillets, and 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste is equal to 1 anchovy fillet, so just add 1 & 1/2 teaspoons paste instead.
- Three 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
- 3 quarts water
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 5 cloves garlic (1 cut in half, the other 4 crushed or ground with a mortar and pestle)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 anchovy fillets (or 1½ teaspoons anchovy paste)
- ½ pound elbow macaroni
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Pour 3 quarts water into a large Dutch oven or soup pot
- Add the chickpeas, 1 rosemary sprig, 1 garlic clove cut in half and the salt
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover for 30 minutes
- Meanwhile, put the remaining garlic cloves and a bit of Kosher salt into a mortar and grind with a pestle until smooth
- Take the remaining rosemary sprigs and tie into a bundle with kitchen string
- In a small saucepan, pour in the olive oil, season with a few cracks of black pepper, add the garlic and rosemary and heat over medium until garlic turns golden - be careful not to burn
- Take the saucepan off heat and discard the rosemary
- Add the anchovies and crush with a pestle or fork
- After chickpeas have simmered for 30 minutes, remove the rosemary with a slotted spoon
- Pour the anchovy mixture into the soup and stir to incorporate
- Raise the heat to high and bring soup to a boil
- Drop in the pasta and cook until al dente
- Add the black pepper and serve with the grated Parmesan cheese
Looking for the perfect pot to cook up your next batch of soup? I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It comes in 11 different colors and is an excellent value for the price.