The first month of our stay here in Umbria has been cold and wet although the weather finally seems to be taking a turn for the better and this past week we had a few gorgeous days with sunshine and temperatures in the 80’s. I do now have hope that we may end up with a nice summer! When the weather is cool and damp though, our farmhouse is not a very comfortable place to be and I have to layer up to keep warm. A nice big bowl of steaming soup is always a great way to keep warm, and I tend to make hearty bean and grain soups often during the cooler months for when we need a nice warm bowl of soup comfort.
I often cook a big pot of beans, and then freeze them to use later in soups such as this one, salads, or even to use as a side dish for grilled meats. For this soup, you can use canned beans if short on time, or cook your own from scratch (my preference)if you have the time. I generally prefer chickpeas, cannellini beans, or the small white beans we have here in Umbria from the shores around lago Trasimeno for soups. 1 pound of dried beans is about 2 cups, and once cooked will give you about 4 1/2 to 5 cups cooked beans.
To cook your beans from dried, starting the night before, place a 1 pound package of dried beans in a bowl and cover with water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest overnight. Drain the beans and place in a pot and cover with fresh water, a couple of bay leaves, and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Bring the water to a boil, then decrease to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender. (This may take 30 to 45 minutes depending on the beans.) Drain and use as needed.
Farro is a very popular grain used here in Umbria in soups, salads, and in place of rice for risotto. It is an ancient grain belonging to the wheat family, and is also known as emmer wheat. Farro is sometimes mistaken for spelt, but they are two very different grains. Although this dish tastes great too, the best part of using farro in place of rice is the added nutritional benefits. Farro is high in fiber, magnesium and a number of important vitamins such as A,B,C & E. Although farro is much more readily available these days in health food stores, or even in the organic section of local grocery stores, if you cannot find farro in your area, you can substitute spelt or barley for this dish although the cooking times may vary and the taste will be a little different.
Deborah Mele 2013
- 1 Pound Dried Chickpeas (or 5 Cups Canned)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 4 Tablespoons Chopped Pancetta
- 1 Carrot, Diced
- 1 Onion, Peeled & Diced
- 1 Stalk Celery, Diced
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
- 4+ Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Rosemary
- 1 Cup Farro
- Cracked Black Pepper
- Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Crisp Pancetta Bits (Optional)
- In a large soup pot, heat the oil and then add the pancetta, carrots, onion, celery and garlic.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and the pancetta pieces are lightly browned, about 8 minutes
- Add the chickpeas to the pot with the vegetables and cover everything with broth by at least 1 inch.
- Season with salt and pepper, oregano, and rosemary.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and slowly simmer for another 15 minutes or so to develop and meld the flavors.
- Remove half the bean and vegetable mixture, and puree until smooth in a food processor, then return to the pot.
- Add the farro to the pot, and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the farro is just about tender to the bite. If the soup gets too thick, add additional broth to thin as needed.
- Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve in individual bowls topped with some cracked black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Sprinkle top of soup with the crispy pancetta bits if using and serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 487 Total Fat: 21g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 15g Cholesterol: 29mg Sodium: 226mg Carbohydrates: 56g Fiber: 13g Sugar: 9g Protein: 22g