Chickpea Soup


Chickpeas or garbanzo beans is an important food source in Italy.  Chickpeas are high in protein and nutrient rich.  Dry-roasted chickpeas, sold by street vendors, are a popular snack food much like roasted peanuts are here in the U.S.  This earthy, flavorful, soup is rich and very filling.

(Minestra di Ciciri /Zuppa di Ceci)

Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 pound dried chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
3 cups hot water plus more if needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl.  Cover with 5 cups of water and let sit overnight.  Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

2. Using a 6-quart covered stockpot, add chickpeas, 6 cups of water, and baking soda. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for 2 hours, until chickpeas are soft.  Drain chickpeas in a colander and rinse.

3. Place half of the chickpeas and half of the hot water in a food processor.  Puree until smooth but still having little bits of chickpeas, or process until completely smooth if desired.  Pour mixture back into stock pot.  Repeat process with remaining half of the chickpeas.  The mixture will seem thin but will thicken upon standing.

4. Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Reduce heat to low, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the parsley and continue stirring continuously until garlic is golden, about 3 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the garlic or it will be bitter.

5. Add the garlic mixture to the stockpot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add more water if necessary.  Ladle the soup into bowls, lightly drizzle olive oil on top and fresh ground pepper.  Serve with thin slices of bread toasts if desired.

VARIATION:  One cup of small cooked pasta such as ditalini or shells can also be added to the soup.

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