I’m feeling decidedly chilly so thought I’d share one of my favourite comfort soups.
Originally made with homemade tagliatelle which is then fried. Today it is usually made with shop-bought small dried pasta shapes. If you don’t have any in the cupboard break up some spaghetti. The use of bicarbonate soda, salt and flour during the soaking stage is not absolutely necessary but helps to create a silky finish to the chickpeas. You don’t have to use parsley if you don’t want but can add a sprig of Rosemary tied in muslin when you first cook the chickpeas (only remember to take it out before adding the tomatoes). As with most Puglian cooking this is a simple dish that can be adapted to what you have in the kitchen or garden.
140g/5oz dried chickpeas (or a 425g/14oz can), 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp salt, 1 litre/1.75 pints vegetable stock or water, a sprig of parsley, a sprig of rosemary (optional), 3 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised, 40ml/3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 150g/5.5oz skinned fresh tomatoes (a handful), 100g/4oz small tubular pasta such as ditalini, parmesan or pecorino cheese for grating, chilli oil or chilli flakes (optional)
Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with plenty of water. Mix together the bicarb of soda, flour and salt and add enough water to make a thin paste. Stir this mixture into the bowl with the chickpeas and leave to soak for at least 12 hours if not 24, if you have the time.
After soaking drain and rinse chickpeas. Put them in a large pan and add the vegetable stock or the same quantity of water.
Add the garlic and rosemary (if using) to the stockpot and pour in half the oil. Cover the pan tightly and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and cook over the lowest simmer until the chickpeas are tender, which can take between two to four hours. Do not uncover the pan for the first hour and a half, or the chickpeas will harden. For the same reason, do not add any salt until the chickpeas are nearly ready.
When the chickpeas are tender add the chopped or pureed tomatoes and their juices to the soup. Stir well, add salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further 10 minutes or so.
Before you add the pasta, check that there is enough liquid in the pan. You may have to add some boiling water. Now, add the pasta and cook till al dente. Add some freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley, pour some of the remaining oil into the pot of soup, and drizzle some more into each bowl after you’ve ladled in the soup. Put the cheese on the table with a grater and some chilli flakes.