Monday, 22 February 2016

Zuppa di ceci (Italian chickpea soup)

A few weeks ago I came across a free ebook on amazon called From Mangia to Murder (A Sophia Mancini - Little Italy Mystery Book 1) by Caroline Mickelson. The title immediately made me think of Little Italy in New Haven, CT where I used to buy the best pine nuts cookies ever. They also had two competing pizzerias, each of which claimed to invent pizza.
The story takes place in Little Italy in 1946. Sophia Mancini and her brother Angelo, an ex-policeman who recently returned from the front, decided to open a private detective agency. To celebrate the event and advertise their agency, they hold a dinner at Vincenzo's Ristorante. Vincenzo sounds like the most unpleasant brute and ends up killed in the kitchen, while the dinner goes on. And thus Sophia has her first case to solve.
I am yet to find out who killed the chef, but I'm in no hurry.
I've read perhaps one third of the cozy mystery, then got distracted by the other books, and haven't finished it. I might get back to it at some point, but as I'm re-reading War and Peace at the moment, it will take me a while.

The murder in the book happens in the restaurant, and there are quite a few food references, including an inspiring Italian menu which includes pasta with mascarpone, sun dried tomatoes and spinach; gnocchi Caprese and chicken Cacciatore, Panzanella bread salad and two kinds of biscotti for dessert.
Zuppa di ceci was the suggested starter.

"Zuppa di Ceci to start, with baskets of fresh loaves of garlic bread".
Creamy chick pea soup. Perfect."

I have looked up a few recipes online, and while some leave the chickpeas whole, some recipes offer a creamy version. I have opted for a creamy version which I found on Italian food and flavours and adapted a bit, and it was a very nice soup. If you are a vegetarian, skip the pancetta.

Zuppa di ceci
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
70g pancetta cubes
1/2 onion, diced finely
1 clove of garlic
1 carrot, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 vegetable stock cube
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves

Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water. The next day put the pancetta cubes in a big frying pan and cook stirring for 5+ minutes, until the cubes are well browned and crispy. Remove the pancetta cubes from the pan, and keep on a plate. Add the sliced onion, garlic, celery and carrot in the fat from pancetta, and fry on low for about 8 minutes, stirring regularly.
Drain the chickpeas and add the fried vegetables to the pan, cover with water and add a stock cube, fresh rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer on low for about 2 hours.
A few recipes I came across suggested cooking the soup for 1 and a half hours, but the chickpeas were still pretty firm so I kept them cooking for longer.
This soup would be great for a slow cooker, as cooking it on the stove requires regular checking and adding more water.
After two hours remove the rosemary and bay leaves, then blitz the soup. Heat up the pancetta cubes quickly and scatter over the soup.
You might want to add more stock or liquid to the soup to get a desired consistency. The soup is quite thick.
It is a hearty rustic soup, best enjoyed with a good chunk of bread.
You might also grate some parmesan or Grana over it instead of pancetta.
For a vegetarian version, skip pancetta altogether and use the olive oil for frying.

Have you read a book recently which inspired you to run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?

I hope you are inspired by books to join in our #ReadCookEat challenge.

The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email me with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).

I promise to Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+


  1. Sounds like a perfect candidate for #readcookeat, you had lots to choose from :) I have a couple to link up lready, I think. Let me have a look ...

    1. Thank you Cheryl! Took me ages to do a post this month. So many ideas, so little time, an eternal dilemma.

  2. This looks lovely, I am always looking for chickpea recipes. I seem to have loads of cans of them for some reason

    1. Thank you Alison! I think tinned chickpeas would work better if you fancy a quick meal.

  3. ilove zuppa di ceci but I also love pasta e ceci! and since my other half doesnt like chickpeas I never eat it :(

    1. Thank you Fede, I'm not sure if I ever had pasta e ceci. Do you have a good recipe?