Minestra di ceci alla Marchigiana – chickpea soup from Marche

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Legumes are an intrinsic part of Marche’s culinary heritage. As with other central Italian regions, legumes have for long been a source of inexpensive protein for people who didn’t have access to large quantities of meat. Chickpeas, in particular, were used for hearty soups of mixed vegetables and pork scraps. This recipe is an example of such soups.

As with any Italian recipe, there is not just one way of making this minestra. For instance, a number of versions call for fresh (when in season) and dry porcini mushrooms. Others include escarole and parsley. My suggestion would be to follow your cook’s instincts and to adapt the recipe to your tastes and what you have on hand. Any tender leafy greens will work just fine; tinned chickpeas instead of dry will do too.

Ingredients

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Minestra di ceci alla marchigiana

  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 100g of thick-sliced Parma ham, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 200g of dried chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2l vegetable stock, heated
  • 100g of spinach, or baby chard
  • fine sea salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1
Heat the oil in a large pan set over a medium heat. Add the Parma ham and fry for 5 minutes, until the fat has rendered
2
Stir in the garlic, celery, carrot and onion and cook until soft, about ten minutes, stirring often
3
Next, add the drained chickpeas and the chopped tomatoes. Cover with stock and place a lid on top. Simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the chickpeas are very tender and the soup has come to the desired thickness
4
Taste and season. Stir in the spinach of baby chard and allow them to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and black pepper to taste
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