Ceci, also called chickpeas or garbanzo beans in North America are very popular here in Italy. Ceci are bought in the dried form and then after being soaked in water overnight are slowly cooked until tender. Once cooked, these nutrition little beans can be served in a variety of ways as a side dish, in soups and salads to name just a few.
Chickpeas are low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. They are also a good source of fiber, protein and copper, and a very good source of folate and manganese. I often throw a handful of cooked ceci into my soup pot, but one of my favorite soups to make with them is this rich and creamy Zuppa di Ceci. Apart from a little pancetta, onion, celery, garlic and carrots used to develop the flavor base, the chickpeas are the primary ingredient.
The chickpeas are pureed in the soup which creates a rich, thick soup, but I always keep out some cooked beans that I add back into the soup to add texture. I use my hand immersion wand to puree my soups which works great, but a blender or food processor will work just as well. Just allow the soup to cool a bit before using either of these to prevent messy soup accidents.
This soup is typical of the “cucina povera” style of cooking when you could create a filling warm dish for your family with a handful of dried beans and a few additional readily available ingredients to flavor the dish. To serve this soup, all it really needs is some cracked black pepper and a drizzle of really good extra virgin olive oil, but it is also great with some crisp pancetta bits as shown in the photo too.
This soup freezes well, and actually improves in flavor the next day so is yet another great soup that can be made ahead of time. Like all soups of this type, serve the soup very warm but not steaming hot so you can really enjoy the rich flavor.
- 1 Pound Dried Chickpeas
- 1 Carrot, Diced
- 1 Onion, Peeled & Diced
- 1 Stalk Celery, Diced
- 4 Tablespoons Chopped Pancetta
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
- Chicken or Vegetable Broth (4+ Cups)
- Salt & Pepper
- Cracked Black Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Crisp Pancetta Bits
- Starting the night before, place the dried beans in a bowl and cover with water.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest until needed.
- Drain the beans and place in a pot and cover with fresh water.
- 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 let sit in a colander while you prepare the soup flavor base.
- In a large soup pot, heat the oil and then add the pancetta, carrots, onion, celery and garlic.
- Cook until the vegetables are tender and the pancetta pieces are lightly browned.
- Remove about 1 1/2 cups of the chickpeas and set aside until later.
- Return the rest of the chickpeas to the pot with the vegetables and cover everything with broth by at least 1 inch.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and slowly simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes or so to develop and meld the flavors.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Puree the soup until thick and smooth, adding additional broth as needed.
- Return the soup to the heat and stir in the chickpeas you had set aside early.
- 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 and serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 215mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 7gSugar: 5gProtein: 12g