Chestnut and Chickpea Soup

By • December 27, 2013 • 44 Comments

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Author Notes: Chestnuts add velvety texture and earthy sweetness to this rustic, warming soup from central Italy, a specialty that can be found from Abruzzo to Tuscany.

Traditionally, dried chickpeas are used – soak them for 12 hours before boiling them until soft. Dried or freshly collected chestnuts can also be used – both need to be boiled until soft; the latter needs to be scored with a cross before heading for the pot and peeled after boiling. Don't throw away the liquid used to cook these ingredients in; this becomes the broth for the soup.

This version below – for convenience's sake – uses quality pre-cooked chickpeas and chestnuts, which means this soup can be made in under fifteen minutes. Despite its simplicity, it is a soup full of flavour, with the partially blended chickpeas lending hearty creaminess and fresh herbs that are allowed to sing out – rosemary and chestnuts are a match made in heaven.

Some recipes call for a splash of tomato puree (passata) here. Others leave the chickpeas whole, rolling around in the broth made by boiling the dried chickpeas. The chestnuts are usually kept whole as pureed chestnuts become extremely thick, though it's not entirely out of the question to do this. Still others I have seen use other legumes in place of the chickpeas, such as borlotti or cannellini beans. If you want to add even more substance to it, farro or barley would go nicely. It's a humble soup with moreish, comforting quality; perfect for your next cozy night in with a glass of red wine.
Emiko

Serves 4

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 14 ounces (400 grams) canned chickpeas, drained
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) cooked, peeled chestnuts
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Smash the garlic cloves and saute them gently in the olive oil with the rosemary and sage, infusing the oil. When is the garlic is soft, add the white wine to the pan, let evaporate for half a minute then add the chickpeas, season with salt and cover with water.
  2. Blend about half of the chickpeas to a smooth puree – a hand mixer is handy for this, but otherwise, transfer the chickpeas and some of the water to a blender and blend, then return the mixture to the pan. Add the chestnuts. Boil, uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and become creamy. The chestnuts can be left whole, or broken up slightly with a spoon while cooking.
  3. Remove the rosemary sprigs and serve with a drizzle of your very best extra virgin olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.
Jump to Comments (44)

Comments (44) Questions (1)

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about 1 month ago Erin Butler

This is such a fabulous recipe! So easy to make, yet elegant and delicious enough to be served to company. I now double the amount of chickpeas because I feel the sweetness of the chestnuts needed to be diluted a bit. Plus that just means we have extra soup to eat! :)

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about 1 month ago Emiko

The beauty of this recipe is that it is so easy to adapt to your own tastes -- just the way it would change from household to household in Italy too!

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3 months ago Akiko

Thank you for the wonderful recipe! I got to know the soup in the "6 Regional Italian Recipes for Fall" column. I made this two times already with the chestnuts our friends picked in forest :) Once I served the soup to our guests and they liked it too especially the flavor from sage.

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about 1 month ago Emiko

Sounds wonderful! Fresh chestnuts foraged yourself - very lucky!

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3 months ago kaleandsalt

Fantastic, very typical flavors of central Italy. Served as a starter to a lamb roast with raw fennel in olive oil and salt on the side for a classic Abruzzese meal. I used unsalted chicken broth in place of water and it was incredible, far more than the sum of its parts.

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about 1 month ago Emiko

Thanks for this feedback - sounds like a delicious combination of dishes.

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3 months ago lich

Thank you Regine - Giant it is!

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8 months ago Regine

Love this soup. I use 2 cups water and i seriously cut down on the rosemary. I wish i could have some now.

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10 months ago Kendra Palmer

How much water? I don't see it in the recipe.

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10 months ago Emiko

It's in there! Simply use enough water to cover! :)

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10 months ago Kendra Palmer

Thanks, Emiko, but all I see is: 2. ...transfer the chickpeas and "some of the water" to a blender -- does that mean the liquid from the canned chickpeas, or regular water? I'm assuming the latter.

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10 months ago Emiko

Oh that part refers to the water that you've been cooking the chickpeas in
(the soup liquid in other words) - just enough to make it easy to blend if you're using a blender. If you've got a stick blender, then it's very easy - you can just stick it in the pot and blend a little. It's a very adaptable recipe, you can have it as chunky or as smooth as you like!

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10 months ago Kendra Palmer

Thank you!

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11 months ago insecureepicure

I made this soup the other day. I think it is a good soup. It was a good start but I found it was too strong with Rosemary. I will cut down next time to an inch or two of Rosemary sprig. Also, I think I will blend partially blend the chick peas and the chestnuts at the beginning. The chesnuts were too chunky and big.

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11 months ago Emiko

That's the beauty of this recipe - you can puree as much or as little of either element to your liking!

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12 months ago Dawn Culbertson

I found cooked peeled chestnuts in a vacuum sealed package at Trader Joes.

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12 months ago helga

Lovie, peeled pre cocked chestnuts are available at your Korean or Chinese store.

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12 months ago LovieH2O

Thank you Helga. I shall try that as most of my poor chestnuts turns out were rotten.

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12 months ago lisa volpe hachey

Comforting and sweet, this soup was gone in two days! I'm soaking more chickpeas right now!

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12 months ago LovieH2O

I have not be able to locate chestnuts in a can locally but did find some in the shell at my local organic grocery. I have boiled them and soaked them and in re-reading the recipe, question the use of the water for the stock. If I do my soup will not look anything like the pictured as my water has the dark chestnut color. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the comments. I wish I knew why this particular recipe holds me. Somehow I will make it.

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12 months ago Emiko

If you prefer, try this: boil the chestnuts for about 10 minutes to remove the shells (cut an 'x' on their bottoms - makes it easier to remove), drain, then place them back in some fresh water and continue boiling for another few minutes to remove the second skin. They won't be fully cooked yet but you can now use them in the soup, using this second batch of water and topping up with fresh water if needed.

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12 months ago Kate stewart

This was amazing - really full of flavor and so easy to make. Perfect for a cold, wintry night. We had it on it's own as a meal - in which case it is definitely only 2 servings.

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12 months ago Emiko

Isn't it? :) Glad you enjoyed it - and thanks for adding the feedback here for servings.

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12 months ago Katherine

Thank you so much - I will start soaking them.

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12 months ago Regine

Just had leftover of this soup for lunch at work. REALLY delicious delicious.

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12 months ago Regine

Hmm.. I read this online. Pasted below. You may have to do instructions below first, and then follow Emiko's recipe. But I am not sure.

Dried chestnuts can be cooked in any thin, non-acid liquid: water, broth – even milk if they’ve first been soaked overnight in water to cover. Allow 2 cups liquid for each cup of chestnuts if they will be cooked tightly covered, a bit more if some liquid is likely to cook away. Avoid acids like orange and tomato juice unless heavily diluted or you’ll have leather instead of velvet.

3. In water, cooking time is generally about an hour. The richer the liquid, the longer they’ll take. Chestnuts in milk can take two hours or more to soften properly. Always check by breaking a few open, sometimes nuts that test tender with a knifepoint are still tough inside.

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12 months ago Katherine

No, these are dried in a bag from Italy. They actually look like dried figs.

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12 months ago Emiko

Yes, they're quite common in Italy. You use them as you would dried legumes - soak them overnight, then boil in plenty of water until soft (this can take an hour or more). Some like to add salt, a splash olive oil and/or bay leaves. When done, save the water for adding to the soup, of course!

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12 months ago Regine

Katherine, I myself used the ready made (peeled and cooked chestnuts). See link to see what they look like. I find them at the Giant supermarket (in the Washington DC Metropolitan area).
http://www.amazon.com/Gefen...

But if you have dried chestnuts, I guess you mean the ones in shell? I hear you can roast them. But Emiko will probably tell you what to do. D)

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12 months ago Katherine

How would I do this with dried chestnuts? I have a bag someone brought from Italy and this might be a great way to use them. Thanks for any advice.....

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12 months ago Regine

Thanks Emiko. I used canned chickpeas and ready made and peeled chestnuts. Truly delicious and so quick to prepare, yet with a complex flavor. I just ate it on its own so that is why i could have eaten half in one sitting. I am going to make more tomorrow. Thanks again!

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12 months ago Emiko

haha yes, I tend to go back for second helpings too!