this soup. this chick pea, tomato, and pasta soup is one of my all-time favorite soups. one of the soups that gets made several times every fall/winter. the soup that, when one friend came over for dinner, i stated that the recipe says it serves four but it’s really more like three so we should triple it (because i wanted lots of leftovers, as i quickly explained upon seeing the confused look on her face). this soup.
i suppose it doesn’t hurt that i was first introduced to this soup in italy. years ago i was in rome with my family and my sister, who has a knack for ordering the best dish on the menu, ordered this soup at a little trattoria on a tiny back street where a smart car was definitely the widest vehicle that could squeeze through between the ancient buildings. after trying a bite of her soup, i knew that i needed to have more of this soup in my life, more often (preferably without the need to purchase international airfare).
upon returning home, i jumped on epicurious and searched based on the main ingredients (chick peas, tomato, and a little bit of tiny pasta). i lucked out and immediately found a recipe that seemed right, based on what i remembered. i threw the recipe together and was delighted to discover that it was exactly like the delicious soup of my memory. you know how sometimes you remember loving something and then you come back to it later and it’s ok but not as good as you remember? totally did NOT happen in this case. i actually liked my version better because a) i got to customize it exactly the way i like (read: more garlic! less salt!) and b) i didn’t have to cram all of my toiletries into tiny little bottles.
in fact, i liked it so much that i emailed several friends (subject line: unbelievably good soup recipe) and basically pleaded with them to make the soup, advising that, “it is so delicious. really, i highly recommend that you try making it if, upon reading my modified recipe below, it sounds even remotely appealing. did i mention that it’s sooooo good?!? it’s going to be a struggle to not eat the entire batch of it at once. it’s amazing. i l.o.v.e. it. so good.” 5 years after i sent the original email one of the friends emailed back to say, “i just made this, again, and yes it is so delicious. thanks for the recipe, back in the day :)”.
so there you have it: time-tested and at least two people ever (one of whom is not me) made and enjoyed this soup. if that doesn’t get you to try it, i don’t know what will.
- 2 oz. (59 ml / 1/4 cup) olive oil (see notes: i use extra virgin when i’m feeling fancy)
- 1 small/medium or 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
- 3 – 4 large garlic cloves, crushed or minced
- heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped/crumbled a little bit
- heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried crumbled sage
- 16 oz. (454 g. / 2 cups) canned low sodium plum tomatoes, drained and chopped (see notes: low sodium diced tomatoes, undrained, also work)
- 24 oz. (710 ml / 3 cups) low sodium broth (i like chicken best but veggie works too, of course)
- 15.5 oz. (438 g. / 2 cups) canned low sodium chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained, divided
- 1/2 cup small pasta, such as ditalini, elbows, or orzo
- shredded hard italian cheese such as pecorino romano (my favorite), romano, or parmesan, for serving
- in a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. when hot, add the onion and sauté for approximately 4 minutes, until the onion turns translucent (but don’t let it brown).
- add the garlic, rosemary, and sage. stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn, cook for 1 minute.
- add the tomatoes, stir to combine, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have thickened slightly.
- pour in the broth and all but about half a cup of the chick peas. set the remaining ½ cup chick peas aside. simmer the soup for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. remove from heat.
- using your blender/processor of choice (i like to use an immersion blender to skip the step where i pour molten lava temperature soup all over the counter and floor when transferring from from a very wide pot into a much narrower blender), puree the soup until smooth.
- if you transferred it to blend, pour the soup back into your pot, otherwise, just turn the burner back on at high heat.
- bring the soup to a boil then add the pasta and remaining chick peas. stir occasionally and cook until pasta is juuuust past al dente (see pasta package for time, as it depends on size/shape pasta you chose). the pasta will continue to soften as it sits in the soup so, especially if you are planning for leftovers, don’t overcook the pasta up front.
- divide soup among bowls and shred cheese over the top of the soup, as desired.
the original recipe calls for regular olive oil but when i’m feeling indulgent and want the soup to be extra delicious, i’ll use extra virgin. it’s possible this is a placebo effect since heat can destroy the compounds that make extra virgin olive oil so much yummier than regular olive oil but, i swear it tastes more full and has more depth when i use extra virgin.
i play it pretty fast and loose with the tomatoes i put in: the first time i made the soup, i only had diced tomatoes and was impatient to try the recipe so used those, undrained, with great results. i’ve also done as instructed and used plum tomatoes that i drained and chopped. i’ve even stretched it as far as using crushed tomatoes. once you’ve made the soup once or twice (you will make it more than once), you’ll know how thick you like it and how much liquid to use; you can always cut back the broth if the tomatoes are juicy.
same goes with the pasta: as long as it’s little, i’m not picky. the trattoria in italy used ditalini, the recipe i found called for orzo, i had little elbows around the first time i made the soup and like those best so default to that. if anyone tries it with another grain like farro, leave a comment and let us know how it goes!
finally, salt: i don’t like it. i use low sodium broth, low sodium chick peas, and no salt added tomatoes. you may find this a bit aggressive and wish to swap in a more conventionally salted canned good for one of the low/no salt ingredients listed.
adapted from bon appetit’s 1992 recipe for pasta and garbanzo bean soup