Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ultimate Chickpea Noodle Soup

I found petite dried ceci beans at a local Italian shop to use in this soup, but standard-sized beans work beautifully as well. I used a bit of vegetable bouillon to create a quick broth - the Rapunzel brand (regular with herbs) is a favorite. Soak your beans overnight or at the very least for a few hours before cooking the soup - in a pinch you could conceivably get away with using canned beans.
4 cups water or a mild vegetable stock
2 cups pre-soaked ceci beans (also known as chickpeas or garbanzo beans)
6 ounces fresh or dried pappardelle
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
Bring the stock and ceci beans to a simmer and cook until the beans are cooked through. Taste and season with salt - you will need more or less depending on how salty your stock (bouillon) is. I wanted my broth to have a bit more body so I scooped out a small handful of cooked beans (20 or so), pureed them with a hand blender, and added them back into the pot -an optional step and not necessary if you opt for a homemade chicken stock which tends to have more body (from the gelatin in the bones)...this was my vegetarian work-around.
While the beans are cooking, boil the pappardelle in well-salted water. Drain and set aside 1/3 of the cooked noodles, you are going to fry these. Also, hang on to a cup (or two) of the pasta water in case you need a bit more liquid for your soup.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the reserved noodles and fry them up until they are nice and crispy, don't let the oil get overly hot, it should be nicely fragrant and able to do its crisping job. Just remember, you are going to use it later in the recipe, so you don't want it to get to its smoking point.
Add the boiled-not-fried noodles into the bean pot and taste for seasoning, salt if needed (add in the reserved pasta water here if you want a bit more broth, but I like this soup light on the liquid). Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil from the skillet into the soup and serve with a generous sprinkling of the fried noodles mixed in at the last minute. A drizzle of your favorite table olive oil is a great way to finish the soup.
Serves 4.