The Food Desert Project - Pasta E Ceci (Chickpea Soup)

The Food Desert Project - Pasta E Ceci (Chickpea Soup)
(Originally posted here.) It's decidedly winter in our little corner of the world, and to me, winter means dipping your bread in a warm bowl of comfort.  In my opinion, a hearty winter soup is not just for your body, it revitalizes your soul, too.  Creamy, rich soups don't need to be laden with calories and dairy - here's a soup that's lightning-fast, hearty, healthy - and can be made vegan if need be.  It's a relative of the famous tomato-y Pasta e Fagioli (or Pasta Fazool) but, while this broth does contain some tomato, it gets its primary flavor and richness from chickpeas.   Nutritional Information.

One nearly constant frustration with the Food Desert Project: although rehydrating the onions and garlic in wine overnight produces the best results...I almost always forget.  This time, instead of my usual cheat of heating it in the microwave, I just started the whole thing on the stovetop with excellent results.

Combine in a saucepan:

A good drizzle of EVOO (about two teaspoons)
2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon of dried minced onion
1/4 tsp granulated onion
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp ground rosemary (or substitute poultry seasoning for the herbs)
1/4 tsp ground thyme
A few grinds or shakes of black pepper

Turn the heat onto high and bring to a boil.  Turn down to medium-low heat and simmer until the wine is nearly gone and the seasonings are fragrant.  Add:

3 cups stock (vegetable broth, chicken stock, beef stock - whatever you've got.  You can even substitute boullion cubes and water.)
1/4 cup of your favorite salsa (I avoid brands that use tomato paste as an ingredient)
1/2 can of drained chickpeas

026Bring to a boil.  Puree the chickpeas and seasonings, either with an immersion blender or by adding to a regular blender, and taste the broth to see if you need salt.


The remainder of the drained chickpeas
Two large handfuls of mini pasta (I keep a box of mini pasta odds and ends; you could use orzo, macaroni, or even broken up spaghetti.)

Bring to a boil and cook as directed for the pasta.  Garnish with croutons made from cubed stale bread and a drizzle of EVOO, and enjoy.



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  • Hi Michele! Can you tell me what the food desert project is? Lovely soup--it looks a little Greek.

  • In reply to Julie:

    Thank you so much for asking, Julie! The Food Desert Project was started mostly as a mental exercise on Basically, I wanted to see what kinds of healthy foods I could make using only foods available at a drugstore, dollar store, or corner market - the source for groceries in an urban Food Desert. When I first started the project, I went to a couple of local drugstores and was surprised to find a selection of relatively healthy pantry staples hidden waaay on the bottom shelf of the food aisle. These included whole grains like oatmeal, canned and dried beans, and canned fish to name a few - basically, shelf-stable foods typically on the WIC list.

    Keep in mind, this project is not intended as a solution for the justice issues of the Food Desert, which include not only lack of access, but also poverty and a lack of education. It is more about finding what one could do if one was living in a Food Desert without any other restrictions. That being said, even though sometimes I like to make more challenging dishes, many of my recipes - including this one - are fast, healthy, cheap and easy.

    Pasta E Ceci is a traditional Roman dish; considering that Rome was highly influenced by ancient Greece, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a Greek version out there. Please let me know what you thought if you try it!

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