In Italy, many traditional delicacies are made from simple and wholesome foodstuffs, such as our precious legumes. The cicerchia soup within pagnotta bread is a treat handed down from Italian grandmothers and put on the table to impress diners.
500g cicerchia beans
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
extra virgin olive oil, as needed for cooking
1/2 onion, diced
1 stick celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
100g guanciale or pancetta, diced
salt, to taste
5 loaves pagnotta bread
chopped fresh chives, to taste
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Soak the cicerchia beans for at least 12 hours in cold water, add half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to soften them. Drain.
The next day, in a large saucepan over a medium heat warm a little olive oil and add the onion, celery and carrot then cook and stir for 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the pancetta and cook until browned.
Transfer the cicerchia beans to a saucepan filled with warm water over a high heat. Season with salt and boil covered for about 60 minutes until tender and the liquid has cooked down forming a thick soup. Add the onion, celery and carrots then stir into the soup.
Meanwhile, cut the tops off the bread to make a lid then scoop the bread out of the centre of each loaf and discard. Pour the soup into each loaf, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle in chopped fresh chives to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy your meal!
Also known as 'chickling vetch' and 'flat pea', they are related to the chickpea, which can be used as a substitute if you can't get them.