A hearty bowl of soup warms the soul at this time of year. Deep in color, rich in flavor and so satisfying Zuppa di Ceci & Zucca is just what your Momma ordered on those chilly evenings. Made with humble ingredients Chickpea & Pumpkin Soup typifies the simplicity of the Italian table while providing sustenance for the family.
Pumpkin or squash dishes have a long standing place in Italian culinary history, particularly in the city of Mantua and surrounding areas. The zucca found there is generally large in size and rather knobby and green on the exterior with a bright deep yellow flesh. Readily available in the Fall market stands in the northern regions region, it is commonly used for pasta fillings and desserts, a staple in the diets of the Italian Jewish community of the area. A reasonable substitute is butternut squash or a combination of butternut squash and sweet potato.
When it comes to dried ceci or garbanzo beans, my go to choice is always from Umbria. Preparing dried beans couldn’t be any easier but it does require a bit of basic planning in that the beans need to be soaked overnight before cooking. Once cooked the beans can be frozen and used in any number of ways.
Developing and layering flavors is what this humble soup is all about. This is done as ingredients are added, cooked and seasoned, then including additional ingredients step by step – the basics for any well prepared soup.
Zuppa di Ceci & Zucca is ideal when trying to balance the holiday foods at this time of year. Vegan, soul satisfying, and the perfect one bowl dinner. Add a toasted slice of country style bread rubbed with a clove of garlic & drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and hear Momma call you to the table.
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- 1½ pounds of butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 stalk celery, cleaned and chopped
- 12 ounces of dried ceci beans, preferably imported from Umbria
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 unpeeled clove of garlic
- 1 medium sized onion, peeled and chopped
- 3 juniper berries
- 1 cup dry white wine, preferably Italian
- Parmigiano rind, optional
- Extra virgin olive oil, quanta basta
- Freshly ground black pepper
- The evening before you prepare the soup, rinse the dried beans in cool water then cover the rinsed beans with enough water to reach 2 inches above the level of the ceci. Set aside covered until the next morning.
- Drain the beans, rinse and cover again with fresh water in the same manner. Add two bay leaves, clove of garlic and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and skim off any frothy matter that accumulates. Cook until the beans are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes and set aside. This step can actually be done a few days in advance however be sure to soak the beans overnight.
- Coat the bottom of a large heavy duty pot with olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Add the chopped celery, onion, juniper berries and the remaining bay leaf and slowly cook until the vegetables are soft and the aroma of the juniper berries & bay leaf fill the kitchen - about 10 minutes. Add the butternut squash pieces and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring a bit for an additional 5 minutes. Add the dry white wine, bring the pot to a simmer and cook covered an additional 10 minutes over a low-medium flame.
- Add half of the cooked ceci beans to the pot and about 3 cups of the bean cooking liquid or enough to cover the vegetables along with a Parmigiano rind if you are using one. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender.
- Remove the bay leaf, juniper berries, and Parmigiano rind and using an immersion blender, create a puree of the contents of the pot. This can also be done once the contents are cool in a blender.
- Return the pot to the stove with the puree, add the remaining whole ceci beans and simmer for another 10 minutes. If you feel as though the soup is too thick, add some fresh water.
- The soup is ready to serve or may be refrigerated for several days. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil before serving. A slice of toasted country bread rubbed with extra virgin olive oil and garlic makes a nice accompaniment to the satisfying soup.