An easy Italian chickpea soup — pasta with vegetables and chickpeas in tomato broth.
When I was growing up, my mom would often make pasta e fagioli or pasta e ceci on meat-free Fridays, and it’s always been a favorite.
It’s a classic Italian family-style soup you can prepare as the centerpiece of a simple meal, any day of the week.
What is Pasta e fagioli?
Pronounced fah-jolie, it’s a hearty Italian peasant soup made with beans and pasta.
It’s cooked with tomatoes, aromatic herbs, (rosemary, oregano or marjoram) cheese and sometimes bits of ham or pork.
This recipe is a little different from the soup my mom made.
Pasta e ceci is the same type of soup, but chickpeas (garbanzos) take the place of the white beans.
She was focused on speed and economy, and used a short list of ingredients: canned Progresso cannellini beans or chickpeas, dried oregano, canned tomato sauce and water, along with the short pasta tubes called ditalini.
Compared to the heartier, vegetable-packed soups I prefer now, her soup’s texture was more brothy.
But of course, I loved it as a kid!
I jazzed up my version of chickpea pasta soup with chunks of carrot, fresh red chili pepper and a small piece of rind from Parmesan cheese.
The rind melts into the soup as it simmers, adding another layer of savory flavor.
If you want to make a vegan vegetable soup, just leave out the Parmesan.
You can use canned chickpeas (or cannellini) beans to make this soup.
But, when you have time, try cooking chickpeas from scratch and see what you think!
I believe it’s worth the extra step of cooking beans from scratch for a couple reasons — chickpeas that are homecooked have an earthier flavor and better texture than canned.
PLUS the chickpea cooking water doubles as a tasty broth for the soup.
Classic Pasta e Fagioli with Chickpeas
- ¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced into thin coins
- Kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and chopped
- 1 fresh red chili pepper such as Fresno, finely chopped; or 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red chili
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 5 cups cooked chickpeas with 4 cups reserved cooking water (see how to cook below) or 4 15-ounce cans, drained
- 1 small Parmesan rind, optional
- 8 ounces (225 g) dried soup pasta such as ditalini, acini de pepe or orzo, cooked according to package directions
- Handful of fresh basil leaves or parsley for serving
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Put the oil, onion and carrots in a large heavy pot with a pinch of salt. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally.
- Stir the garlic, chili and rosemary into the pan and cook about 1 minute until fragrant. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus the remaining ingredients except for the pasta, basil and grated cheese (if using canned chickpeas, add 4 cups water or vegetable broth).
- Partially cover the pot and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, chili or freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Remove the Parmesan rind and stir the cooked pasta into the soup. Tear the basil into pieces and add to the pot. Serve in bowls topped with grated cheese.
- To prepare dried chickpeas for this soup, soak one pound chickpeas in cold water 4 hours or overnight. Drain, place in a pot and cover with water to cover by at least 3 inches. Add 1 teaspoon salt, a clove of garlic and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface, then cook until the chickpeas are tender, which could take 1-2 hours. Reserve the cooking liquid to use as a broth for the soup.
- Cook the chickpeas up a few days ahead, if you want, and store in the refrigerator covered with the cooking liquid.
- To make a vegan soup, omit the Parmesan rind and grated Parmesan.