Cicerchie: A Filling Breakfast Soup

January 29, 2016 / Food & Wine
Assisi, Umbria

– Recipes and stories such as this are the heart and fun (and taste!) of Anne’s U.S. Cooking and Lecture Tour “Feast of Umbrian Rural Cuisine” home events this February and March! Not to be missed, book this extraordinary Italian food evening at your home now!


With a subtle flavor – almost a culinary marriage between fagioli borlotti (Italian variety of a a dried bean) and chickpeas – la cicerchia has a vaguely quadrangular shape and a characteristic irregular form. You’ll never find two cicerchie alike. The expression, “just like two peas in a pod,” doesn’t apply for this legume.

cicerchie

Peppa might not know that cicerchie (translated as “chicklings” or “pulses”) were cultivated in Mesopotamia as early as 8000 BC for use in breads, focacce and soups and that this protein-rich legume – over twenty varieties – is now officially recognized by the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture as a “a product of Italy’s traditional agriculture.” But she certainly knows how to cook them: her zuppa di cicerchie (“cecere” as she calls them in Umbrian dialect) has no rival.

On a recent visit to Peppa, a pot of the soup was simmering on her wood stove, the pot encircled by slices of bread, toasting for bruschetta. As a side dish, wild cicoria Peppa had foraged in the fields was sautéeing in her family olive oil with garlic from her garden.

Chicory for after the soup..and bread toasts for the soup
cicoria

Peppa added a pinch of salt to the zuppa, broke up the toasted bread into our bowls, drizzled olive oil over the bruschetta, and then spooned on the zuppa di cicerchie, rich in potatoes, seasoned with sage and garlic, a splash of homemade tomato sauce. As we shared the savory soup, Peppa reminisced about her life on the land as a child of poor farmers. Like most of our rural neighbors of her age, her schooling ended in third grade: the labor of everyone was needed on the land.

A pinch of salt needed
olive oil and bruschetta at peppa's
Peppa's zuppa di cicerchie
Peppa shares lore on cicerchie preparation

“We ate a lot of cicerchie in those days. Mamma made us filling soups for our breakfast at about 9 o’clock – and avevamo tanta fame (“we were so hungry”): we’d all been working the fields since dawn.” The rural breakfast soup was always a legume: fave, lentils, fagioli, chickpeas – or cicerchie. Central Italy’s farmers once cultivated le cicerchie in abundance as this “poor man’s” legume needs no fertilizer, resists parasites and survives in droughts.

Peppa will be eating cicerchie fairly often this winter: the wood stove is fired up daily and the stovetop is perfect for simmering soups. And Peppa affirms that the rule to good health is legumes three times weekly. She no longer has to eat her legume soups in the morning, though, for the energy needed for the fatiguing day ahead; nowadays, her zuppa di cicerchie turns many a pranzo or cena into a gourmet feast.

Zuppa di cicerchie...ahh....JP
Buono, no-

-Finish it up!-

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

28 Responses to “Cicerchie: A Filling Breakfast Soup”

    • Bev Oliveri

      Ann, I have had chichidiz (our pronunciation) dried as a snack and on a saint’s day cooked and drizeled with honey to represent St. Cecilia’s eyes (ocho).

      Reply
  1. Riccardo

    That looks like a hearty breakfast or an anytime zuppa after shoveling 22+ inches of snow in the USA.

    Reply
  2. Katie Larsh

    Another delicious temptation from Annie! Thank you! Wishing you all the very best on your cooking tour!

    Reply
  3. Jack Litewka

    It’s a good thing that I just ate a meal… or I’d be starving for this Italian dish.

    Reply
  4. Yum! I bet Peppa’s house always smells good! The photos are mouth-watering, especially on these chilly winter days. Thanks, Annie, for another great slice (should I say “scoop”?) of Umbrian life.

    Reply
  5. Love learning about another element of traditional cuisine. Got hungry just looking at the photos! Keep these great notes coming, Annie.

    Reply
  6. I love your post, I feel like I’m right there with Peppa, I can hear her saying “Mangia!” You can see the love in her eyes too. Nice work, Anne!

    Reply
  7. Sandra Spector

    we all know an Annie story when we see one. So write a book already?!?
    Love your stories & hope to see you next month here in SF area

    Reply
  8. Gian Banchero

    I learned how to make soups as such from my Piemontese Nonna, the soup was at the right consistency when a spoon would stand straight up in it without falling over. For many soups putting oiled toasted rough bread at the bottom of the plate makes for a dish that allows for one to feel safe in the universe, the scent of the warmed olive oil is just wonderful. The toasted and oiled bread can also be used in thin soups or broths.

    Reply
  9. Marianna Raccuglia

    Wonderful article, dear Anne. I echo Ms. Sector’s comment listed above – write a book!
    Tanti baci, cara. Marianna

    Reply
  10. Ginny Siggia

    I need to try this. In the winter I make a lot of soups with whatever vegetables and beans I can find. The possibilities are endless, but garlic, onions, salt, and pepper are essential. Now, back here in the wild north of New Hampshire, we have a superb BBQ place that features baked beans from heaven. I have to keep a balance in my diet!

    Reply
  11. m.bernadette higgins

    Anne. So many of the Umbria dishes are very much akin to the ones my nonna Carmelina from the Naples area made for us when we were growing up, especially her pasta fagioli with chick peas – what a dish! She had so many different and delicious variations depending on the season and what was on hand. What a delight and chuckle I got when my husband and I went to dinner at a very upscale restaurant and found it listed on the menue under “gourmet appetizers” for a price she would have fed an army with. I can just see her knowing smile still. What atreasure

    Reply
  12. Joseph DeRuyter

    I often think of the delightful evening spent
    sitting around Peppa’s table! Dolce!

    Reply
  13. Sarah Walters

    Annie! Bring a bag of those magic beans with you to Denver. . . .I have the olio from Spello waiting for a good way to use it. Much love to Peppa who is even more photogenic than her zuppa! See you soona.

    Reply
  14. Ann Krapf

    Thanks, Anne. A wonderful dish for vegans or vegetarians! I need to visit her when we come to Assisi!

    Reply
  15. david fleming

    We’re still digging out from 30 inches of snow and I now know how to satisfy the hunger after all that snow shoveling . Off to find the ingredients !!

    Reply
  16. Anne, I always love hearing about Peppa and her delicious creations. Yum!!

    Reply
  17. Valerie Foster

    That’s a wonderful winter dish! I’m going to try to make it myself. Thank you for the photos of your Peppa.

    Reply
  18. Janet Eidem

    Looks like the perfect breakfast to me Annie! Especially this time of year. Your photos of Peppa are beautiful. She looks happy and healthy. Safe travels and enjoy your tours!

    Reply
  19. Lina Falcone

    Thank you Anne for this cicerchie recipe this was my moms favorite soup. Grazie

    Reply
  20. Valerie R.

    OH WOW!!! Just looking at these photos makes my mouth water. I wish I had some of Peppa’s cicerchie soup right now! As always your articles are wonderful and seeing Peppa’s smiling face makes my day. WRITE THE BOOK!!! xo

    Reply

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