Ceci Bean and Escarole Soup

It has been rainy, cold couple of weeks in the Philadelphia area, which sent me on a quest to find a good spring soup that would chase away the chill but also feel healthy. I came across several variations of Sicilian chickpea soup (which I had never made before). Low in fat and high in protein, chickpeas–a.k.a. garbanzo beans or ceci beans, as my mom calls them–are one of the earliest cultivated legumes and a staple in Sicilian cuisine.

This recipe gets its mediterranean flair from fennel, anchovy, and orange peel. The “hot” spices (oregano and red pepper flakes) warm from within, while the lightly cooked escarole gives it a fresh, healthful feel. The Roma tomatoes hold up nicely in this soup and the mashed anchovies melt into the broth, adding depth but no real “fishiness.” This quick recipe relies on good quality canned chickpeas and is just the thing for a rainy Spring evening. In the fall, I would add cooked Italian sausage or shredded cooked chicken for a more hearty main course. Other recipes I found start with pancetta and I will definitely try that in the future.

Sicilian Chickpea and Escarole Soup

Ceci Bean and Escarole Soup

Ceci Bean and Escarole Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks trimmed, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 gloves garlic, smashed and chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tin anchovies (about 4), mashed
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, cored, de-seeded, and chopped medium
  • 6 cups Chicken Stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 3-inch-long strip of orange zest
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 2 cans of good quality, organic chickpeas (ceci beans)
  • 1 head of escarole, cored and chopped into about 1-inch wide pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (for serving)

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel and saute until translucent. Add the onions and garlic and continue to cook until all the vegetables are about the same softness (the fennel takes a little longer than the onions and garlic). Add the oregano, red pepper, and anchovies. Stir until the mashed anchovies are well-distributed through the vegetables and the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes just start to soften. Add the chicken stock and water along with the bay leaves, orange zest, parmesan rind and chickpeas. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes. Remove and discard the parmesan rind, orange zest, and bay leaves. Add the escarole and cook for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread and freshly grated parmesan sprinkled on top.

Related Recipes

Ceci Bean Soup – starts with pancetta (always a good sign), pureed

Pureed Chickpea Soup – Passato di Ceci – starts with pancetta, looks like a lot of flavor, pureed

Sicilian Chickpea Soup – adapted from an old cookbook + the author is dealing with the same cold Spring issue as me

Minestra di Ceci (Chickpea Soup) – interesting historical notes

Spanish Chickpea Soup – includes music selection

Sicilian Chickpea and Escarole Soup

Ceci Bean and Escarole Soup

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