A classic Italian soup, I fell in love with this the first time I had a version of it at Ristorante Del Porto in Covington. I've been thinking about it ever since, so I played around with a recipe last week and was very pleased with the outcome. It is rich and creamy even though it has no dairy or cream and was the perfect meal on Ash Wednesday to wind down after a LONG Mardi Gras season!
Like the Holy Trinity of New Orleans cuisine, a "soffritto" is the starting point for many Italian soups, sauces and stews. While locally we use equal parts onion, celery and green peppers, in Italy the base is usually a combination of carrots, onion and celery with the proportions of each depending on what you are cooking.
If I had more time I would have soaked dried chick peas overnight and made a homemade chicken stock. But, it was the day after Mardi Gras and I just couldn't deal with all of that! So here is a relatively quick version of this delicious, hearty, Italian classic!
1/3 C. olive oil
1 med. onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 6" sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
2 cans chickpeas
3 T. tomato paste
3-1/2 cups chicken stock
3-4 ounces small pasta shapes (ditalini are preferred, but I used orecchietti)
1/4 -1/2 tsp peperoncino
premium olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
1. Pour the olive oil into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently. Add the rosemary to the pan and fry over a gentle heat till it begins to release its aroma.
2. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and fry over a gentle heat till soft and golden.
3. Add the tomato paste and fry for just a couple of minutes before adding the cooked chickpeas, stock and peperoncino. Simmer for approx 20mins, then remove about half of the soup and process through a food mill (use a blender if you don't have a food mill). Return the pureed soup to the pan.
4. Add the raw pasta then simmer gently, stirring regularly to make sure the pasta doesn't start sticking to the base of the pan. Add a little more water/stock if necessary.
5. Once the pasta is done, let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
6. Sprinkle with cheese, basil, salt and pepper and serve with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.