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Zuppa di Ceci

November 29, 2010

During my last few months in Italy, I ate several times at Trattoria di Mario, a delightfully cramped lunch spot near the San Lorenzo market in the center of Florence.

At the Trattoria di Mario

This family-run eatery was memorable for its no-nonsense approach to customer service (si fa la bistecca come ci pare, we’ll cook the steak as we like–so don’t make any suggestions), 100% fresh ingredients, and a limited menu updated daily.

At its tiny, rustic wooden tables, I studied plackards on the wall with presumably witty sayings written in Florentine dialect, incomprehensible to me. I ate coniglio al rosmarino, bistecca alla fiorentina, and the most luscious french fries imaginable.

But I’ll never forget the zuppa di ceci (chickpea soup.) It was the dish that brought me back.

Mario's Zuppa di Ceci

The soup was so firmly lodged in my imagination that only a few weeks after my return to the States, I dreamed of eating it one night.  The dream was vivid enough that I had no choice other than to find a recipe and attempt to replicate the experience here on American soil.

A Google search revealed this recipe from a blog called Ciao Chow Linda. As with my favorite Italian dishes, zuppa di ceci requires just a few ingredients and is incredibly simple to prepare. It’s representative of the concept of cucina povera, or the “poor kitchen”: making use of seasonal, inexpensive ingredients in elemental combinations to produce mindblowing flavors.

Ciao Chow Linda’s Zuppa di Ceci

For four people:
1 3/4 cups (400 grams) dried chick peas, soaked in about 6 cups water
2/3 of a small sprig of rosemary, minced, plus more for decoration
2 cloves of garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T. extra virgin olive oil

Soak the chick peas in water for about 24 hours with a pinch of salt.

Cook them without salt for one hour in a pressure cooker, or two hours in a regular pot. (I added a parmesan rind to the pot)

Take out half of the chick peas and set aside. Puree the other half, then add the whole chickpeas to the pureed mixture.

Sauté the garlic and rosemary for a short time in a pan with the olive oil, until the garlic is barely golden. Add the garlic and rosemary to the cooked chick peas, cooking them together for a few minutes, to blend the flavors. Ladle in extra water to thin the soup to the density desired. Adjust seasonings, adding salt as required.

Optional: use vegetable broth instead of water to thin the soup.

Before serving, drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil and grind some fresh black pepper on top.  Add some hot red pepper flakes if you like more heat.

One Comment leave one →
  1. sara permalink
    November 29, 2010 12:19 pm

    I heard about this mythical soup from Dallas and now I must make it for dinner.

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