I love this soup with chickpeas, but the same recipe can be made with dry kidney or cannellini beans. I sometimes add pasta, such as ditalini or broken spaghetti, in the last 10 minutes of cooking, to give the soup more substance. You will need to have enough liquid in the pot to cook the pasta; if not, just add a cup or two of water, bring to a boil, season to taste, and then add the pasta. My grandmother would save all the little pieces of broken dry pasta and small amounts of different leftover pasta she had, and would throw it in the soup. So, when you have a little spaghetti, a little tubettini, a little fusilli left over, save it all as you go along, and then, when you decide to make zuppa, just throw it all in and cook it.
I sometimes substitute Swiss chard for the spinach, and it is also delicious.
- 1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 2 large bunches leaf spinach, washed, tough stems removed (about 2½ pounds)
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- ¹⁄³ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
Put the drained chickpeas in a large soup pot with the leeks, celery, carrot, bay leaves, and ½ teaspoon of the -red–pepper flakes. Add 8 quarts of cold water, and bring to a rapid simmer. Partially cover, and cook until the chickpeas are almost tender, about 1½ hours.
Add the spinach and salt. Cover, and cook until the spinach is tender, 15 to 20 minutes more.
When the soup is ready, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and remaining ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic just begins to turn golden and is fragrant, about a minute, then ladle in a couple cups of soup, and stir to incorporate the flavored oil into the soup. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the large pot of soup, mix well, and serve.