Chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, are very healthy and wonderful to prepare in many different ways. In Italian they are called ceci, and the classic way to eat them is in a zuppa o minestra (soup), or mixed with small size pasta and a drizzle of olive oil, as in pasta e ceci. My grandmother in the South of Italy used to cook them all morning in spring water, with just a stick of celery and a pinch of sea salt, in a terracotta pot called Pignata, covered and placed over the ambers of the fireplace. I will never forget the taste of those ceci we would have for lunch.
For my Zuppa di Ceci recipe, I use dry chickpeas, which I first soak in water overnight and then cook for a couple of hours with veggies and rosemary, for a wonderful and intense blend of flavors. If you want, you may use canned chickpeas (one and a half regular 15 ounces can), but make sure they are of the best quality and preferably organic.
Ingredients and Instructions (serves 4):
- 1 cup/8 ounces/225 grams of dry chickpeas or
- 1 and ˝ cans of precooked canned chickpeas with their liquid
- ˝ onion
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 medium potato, peeled
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 2 -3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Soak the chickpeas in abundant cold water, for at least 12 hours. Drain.
- Chop the onion and the celery stick, not too fine. Cut the potato into dices, about ˝ inch thick.
- Place the chickpeas in a pot with the celery, onion, potato and rosemary and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Cover with 1 quarter/1 liter of warm water, or the same quantity of half water and half chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours. Check time to time and add more warm water as needed until cooked.
- If you are using canned chickpeas, add a couple of cups of water to their own liquid, a small pinch of salt and pepper, bring to a boil, cover and let simmer gently with the rest of the ingredients for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
(Note: some canned beans may contain more liquid than others, as well as salt and seasoning; always taste them when open the can, and use your own judgment for the right quantity of water and salt and pepper to add.)
- Take the pot off the fire, discard the rosemary, retrieve the celery, potatoes onion and about ˝ if the chickpeas and mash in a vegetable press or blender.
- Return to the pot with the rest of the chickpeas, thus obtaining a fairly thick and creamy soup.
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve warm -- or even cold -- with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, along with sliced and toasted sourdough or artisan bread.