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
sprigs fresh rosemary
fresh sage leaves
extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
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.
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.
Remove the rosemary sprigs and serve with a drizzle of your very best extra virgin olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.