Here’s a cool weather staple I just can’t get enough of. Versions of this soup - some with pancetta, some without pancetta, some with anchovies & some without are made all over Italy.
In this my favorite version, onions are sautéed with chopped up pancetta to which home cooked chick-peas are added, a bit of crushed tomatoes and a whole bunch of chopped up red Swiss chard. The whole pot, chick pea stock and all is set to simmer for over an hour.
A lovely and hearty thick soup, really wholesome and filling and just perfect with some yummy crusty bread is all you need for a complete dinner. I have been packing these to school and work for the boys in their Pyrex soup-to-go cups and they love it.
You really want to make the effort and cook the chickpeas at home. You’ll need to soak the chickpeas overnight and use a pressure cooker so they cook in 25-30 minutes. Cooking at 2 atmospheres will do the trick every time!
Lately I’ve found that the quality of chickpeas is a little tough and doesn’t get creamy after cooking which really makes a huge difference to the mouth feel. My grandmother has always used a pinch of soda bicarbonate whenever she cooked any legumes and it never fails!
Also, chopped up pancetta and right there you know we’re off to a roaring start. If you can’t find pancetta, which is slightly milder to bacon, use chopped up bacon. Vegetarians of course can forego the whole lot but no worries, the soup will still be delicious.
So give it a go and let me know if this becomes one of your winter staples too!
Winter Pancetta, Chick Peas & Swiss Chard Soup
½ cup chopped Pancetta
1 medium yellow onion (to yield 1-1/4 cup chopped)
1 large bunch red Swiss Chard
2 cups raw chickpeas
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp dried or ground sage
¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
6 cups water to cook chickpeas + more as needed
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving along with some crusty bread
Chickpeas: Soak the chickpeas overnight in water. Cook the next day in plenty of water with 1 tsp salt preferably in a pressure cooker to cut down cooking time. Drain in a sieve, reserving all the chickpea water.
Swiss chard: Wash the leaves, cut away all the tough stalks. Roll up the leaves and cut into ½” strips.
Onions: Peel, discard ends and skin and finely chop
Garlic: Crush and finely chop
Heat a large heavy bottom stock pot with olive oil on medium high heat until very hot but not fuming.
Add the pancetta and sauté for a few minutes. Add the onions & garlic and continue to sauté 7-10 minutes until softened but not browned.
Add the Swiss chard and continue to sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce, sage, salt, pepper, chickpeas and all the chickpeas water.
Cook for 1 hour until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the soup is bursting with flavor.
Serve into individual plates and finish with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano & a side of crusty bread.