The most famous cacciucco is a coastal cucina povera fish soup from Livorno, made from the smallest and least valuable fish leftover on the fishing boat or unsold at fish counters. Cacciucco di ceci, however, is not a fish soup, but one defined by chickpeas and chard. If not for a salt-packed anchovy melted into the olive oil at the beginning, this would be a vegan dish. (If you do not have dietary restrictions, however, don’t skip the anchovy; it’s a powerful flavor-booster.)
If you have time, soak half a pound of dried chickpeas overnight, cook them on low heat for a couple of hours until soft, then use them for this recipe. Don’t discard the cooking water, as it will add a more intense flavor and a creamy texture to the soup.
But if you are in a hurry, don’t worry: You can use good-quality canned chickpeas instead, and in less than half an hour, you’ll have a hearty dish packed with greens and vegetable proteins.
Add a few slices of toasted bread—rub them with garlic if you like—and you’ll have a wholesome, balanced meal that will warm you up from the inside.
- 1 salt-packed anchovy
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 3/4 pound Swiss chard, rinsed and cut into strips
- 3 15-ounce cans (4 1/2 cups) no-salt-added cooked chickpeas
- 3 cups chickpea cooking water, or water
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 slices toasted bread
Rinse the anchovy under cold running water. Slice it open, gently remove and discard the spine, and separate into two fillets. Lay the fillets on a piece of kitchen paper to dry.
Pour the olive oil into a pot over low heat, then add the finely sliced onion, garlic, and anchovy fillets. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the anchovy has melted in the olive oil.
Add the diced tomatoes, stir thoroughly to combine, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to turn into a sauce.
Add the chard, stir, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until the chard wilts and softens.
Blend 1/3 of the chickpeas with the chickpea cooking water, then add the mixture to the pot. Add the remaining chickpeas, increase the heat until the mixture is simmering vigorously, then simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle into warmed bowls, add two slices of toasted bread to each, and drizzle with olive oil to serve.
The soup is even better the next day. Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently over low heat, adding a bit of water as necessary to thin.