Vellutata di Ceci con Calamari (Creamy Chickpea Soup with Seared Calamari)

By • April 5, 2016 4 Comments

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Author Notes: All in all, this meal takes about 10 minutes to make, using good quality, pre-cooked tinned chickpeas. Of course, you get great results if using dried chickpeas that you have already soaked and boiled yourself—this, however, takes about 2 hours to cook, plus an overnight soak (you can find this version in my cookbook, Florentine).

It's also a wonderful blank canvas of a dish that you can leave as simple as can be or that you can add to for different variations. Make it as smooth or as rustic as you like: Some blend about three-quarters of the chickpeas and leave the rest chunky for texture. Spice things up by adding some chile, fresh or in the form of dried flakes, and if you don't have chickpeas, you can do this same dish with white cannellini beans.

Try to get baby calamari or smaller-sized calamari for this. You could also use scallops in place of the calamari, flash-seared the same way so they remain tender and cut like butter. The recipe below is adapted from my recipe in Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence.


Serves 4

  • 5 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole
  • 3 to 4 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 pound (500 grams) tinned chickpeas, drained
  • 10 1/2 ounces (300 grams) cleaned baby calamari or squid
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 slices ciabatta or country bread, grilled or toasted, for serving
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a deep stockpot over a low heat. Gently infuse the oil with two of the garlic cloves and rosemary for a few minutes. Add the drained chickpeas and season with salt and pepper. Add water to cover (about 500 milliliters or 2 cups) and bring to a simmer. Since the tinned chickpeas are already cooked, you are really just warming and infusing the soup. As soon as you see the soup simmering, you can remove from heat and blend the soup until creamy and smooth (or leave one quarter of the chickpeas whole if you like a little texture). If it is too thick, add a little hot water. Taste for seasoning.
  2. Cut the calamari into pieces: If they are small, simply cut the tentacles off the body and the body in half lengthways to make 3 pieces. If larger, slice the body into rings. Heat a wide skillet over high heat, add 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and when screaming hot, add the calamari, and cook, tossing occasionally. After 1 minute, remove all the calamari pieces except for the tentacles—cook them another minute but not more. Be careful not to crowd the pan, as doing so will cause them to stew rather than sear. You may want to do this in batches based on the size of your pan. Season with salt and keep the calamari warm on a plate, covered under foil, until all the calamari is ready.
  3. Serve the chickpea soup topped with pieces of calamari, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and warm slices of grilled bread, rubbed lightly with a raw garlic clove.

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Topics: Weeknight Cooking, Soups, Italian Cooking, Fish & Seafood