In Sicily, chickpeas are the favored legume to use in soup. In this version the mild bean shares the stage with escarole. We knew that dried chickpeas were the way to go for our traditional soup because we could infuse them with lots of flavor as they cooked. For aromatics, we started with the classic flavors of the region: onion, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. We also added fennel; its mild anise bite complemented the nutty chickpeas. A strip of orange zest added a subtle citrus note, while a Parmesan
rind bolstered the chickpeas’ flavor with richness and complexity. When stirred in for the last 5 minutes of cooking, the escarole leaves wilted until velvety, while the stems retained a slight crunch. To speed up the process if you’re tight on time, you can use our quick-salt-soak method for the beans: In step 1,
combine the salt, water, and chickpeas in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans well and proceed with the recipe. The Parmesan rind can be replaced with a 2-inch chunk of the cheese. We do not recommend freezing this soup as the chickpeas become unappealingly mushy.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- Total Time: 2 Hours
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound (2¾ cups) dried chickpeas, picked over and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
- 2 fennel bulbs, stalks discarded, bulbs halved, cored, and chopped fine
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus grated Parmesan for serving
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (3-inch) strip orange zest
- 1 head escarole (1 pound), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large tomato, cored and chopped
- Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large container. Add chickpeas and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
- Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add fennel, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until vegetables are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in 7 cups water, broth, Parmesan rind, bay leaves, orange zest, and chickpeas and bring to boil. Reduce to gentle simmer and cook until chickpeas are tender, 1¼ to 1¾ hours. Off heat, discard bay leaves and Parmesan rind (scraping off any cheese that has melted and adding it back to pot).
- Stir in escarole and tomato and cook until escarole is wilted, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle individual portions with grated Parmesan, drizzle with extra oil, and serve.