Chestnut and Chickpea Soup

December 27, 2013
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4
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

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Regine
  • Erin Butler
    Erin Butler
  • Akiko
  • Kendra Palmer
    Kendra Palmer
  • insecureepicure

47 Reviews

carly May 16, 2016
What should I do if I can't find chestnuts? Will it change the flavor drastically? Is there anything I can use to substitute them?
Regine January 22, 2016
I cannot count the number of times i have made this soup. My most favorite. I use vacuum packed already cooked and peeled chestnuts, 2 cups (and sometimes 3 cups water). I skip the rosemary and also add some turmeric powder to further brighten the color of the soup.
Clover88 March 22, 2015
This is so easy to make, yet so elegant and delicious. I made it for a simple early spring lunch and for a rustic dinner with bread and red wine. The white wine really makes a taste difference: once I used some leftover Riesling and the soup was too sweet with the wine and the chestnuts (they always taste sweet to me). I love this dish.
Erin B. November 14, 2014
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! :)
Emiko November 16, 2014
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!
Akiko October 8, 2014
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.
Emiko November 16, 2014
Sounds wonderful! Fresh chestnuts foraged yourself - very lucky!
kaleandsalt October 5, 2014
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.
Emiko November 16, 2014
Thanks for this feedback - sounds like a delicious combination of dishes.
lich September 29, 2014
Thank you Regine - Giant it is!
Regine May 4, 2014
Love this soup. I use 2 cups water and i seriously cut down on the rosemary. I wish i could have some now.
Kendra P. February 23, 2014
How much water? I don't see it in the recipe.
Emiko February 23, 2014
It's in there! Simply use enough water to cover! :)
Kendra P. February 23, 2014
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.
Emiko February 23, 2014
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!
Kendra P. February 23, 2014
Thank you!
insecureepicure January 19, 2014
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.
Emiko January 19, 2014
That's the beauty of this recipe - you can puree as much or as little of either element to your liking!
Dawn C. January 6, 2014
I found cooked peeled chestnuts in a vacuum sealed package at Trader Joes.
helga January 5, 2014
Lovie, peeled pre cocked chestnuts are available at your Korean or Chinese store.
LovieH2O January 5, 2014
Thank you Helga. I shall try that as most of my poor chestnuts turns out were rotten.
lisa V. January 4, 2014
Comforting and sweet, this soup was gone in two days! I'm soaking more chickpeas right now!
LovieH2O January 4, 2014
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.
Emiko January 4, 2014
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.
Kate S. January 3, 2014
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.
Emiko January 3, 2014
Isn't it? :) Glad you enjoyed it - and thanks for adding the feedback here for servings.
Katherine January 3, 2014
Thank you so much - I will start soaking them.
Regine January 3, 2014
Just had leftover of this soup for lunch at work. REALLY delicious delicious.
Regine January 3, 2014
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.

Katherine January 3, 2014
No, these are dried in a bag from Italy. They actually look like dried figs.
Emiko January 3, 2014
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!
Regine January 3, 2014