Ultimate Chickpea Noodle Soup Recipe

The ultimate noodle soup recipe - imagine garbanzo beans bobbing about in a rich broth with thick ribbons of pasta noodles weaving in between them, droplets of olive oil suspended on the surface of the broth, and the whole thing punctuated with crisped fresh pasta that had been fried in olive oil.

Ultimate Chickpea Noodle Soup

This is my current favorite noodle soup recipe. Last month on my trip to Puglia, Italy I encountered various dishes that combined the following ingredients: pasta, garbanzo beans, local olive oil, and broth. Some appeared to be braised and served in just a few splashes of concentrated broth, others were bonafide ladle-worthy soups.

There was one that really stuck out. Imagine garbanzo beans bobbing about in a rich chicken broth with thick ribbons of pasta noodles weaving in between them, droplets of olive oil suspended on the surface of the broth, and the whole thing punctuated with crisped fresh pasta that had been fried in olive oil. Someone said to me, "this is like an Italian version of tortilla soup." Indeed. I believe it was Waldy Malouf who made it as part of one of our amazing lunches at the Oldways Conference.

For the vegetarian readers who are wondering why I'm writing about chicken soup, or the new readers who might not be aware - I'm vegetarian. That being said, very rarely -in a situation like this where I am really trying to understand aspects of a regionally-specific, traditional cuisine, I'll taste a certain dish to educate my palette. Hope that makes some sort of sense. You won't find me eating beef cheeks, but when I encounter something like this (something that isn't inherently meat-centric - like say, steak tartare) I want to understand all the dynamics at play because it can inspire new creations using the palette of ingredients I gravitate to when cooking in my own kitchen (vegetarian, lots of whole ingredients, etc). For perspective, I'll also mention this has happened two, maybe three times in recent years.

So, here's my version of the soup I enjoyed so much in Puglia, I look forward to slurping it up on cold nights in my own kitchen all winter.

For those of you interested in reading about the food of Puglia in more detail there is a nice feature by Dan Hofstadter in Gourmet this month (January 2007).

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Ultimate Chickpea Noodle Soup

I found petite dried ceci beans at a local Italian shop to use in this soup, but standard-sized beans work beautifully as well. I used a bit of vegetable bouillon to create a quick broth - the Rapunzel brand (regular with herbs) is a favorite. Soak your beans overnight or at the very least for a few hours before cooking the soup - in a pinch you could conceivably get away with using canned beans.

4 cups water or a mild vegetable stock
2 cups pre-soaked ceci beans (also known as chickpeas or garbanzo beans)
6 ounces fresh or dried pappardelle

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

Bring the stock and ceci beans to a simmer and cook until the beans are cooked through. Taste and season with salt - you will need more or less depending on how salty your stock (bouillon) is. I wanted my broth to have a bit more body so I scooped out a small handful of cooked beans (20 or so), pureed them with a hand blender, and added them back into the pot -an optional step and not necessary if you opt for a homemade chicken stock which tends to have more body (from the gelatin in the bones)...this was my vegetarian work-around.

While the beans are cooking, boil the pappardelle in well-salted water. Drain and set aside 1/3 of the cooked noodles, you are going to fry these. Also, hang on to a cup (or two) of the pasta water in case you need a bit more liquid for your soup.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the reserved noodles and fry them up until they are nice and crispy, don't let the oil get overly hot, it should be nicely fragrant and able to do its crisping job. Just remember, you are going to use it later in the recipe, so you don't want it to get to its smoking point.

Add the boiled-not-fried noodles into the bean pot and taste for seasoning, salt if needed (add in the reserved pasta water here if you want a bit more broth, but I like this soup light on the liquid). Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil from the skillet into the soup and serve with a generous sprinkling of the fried noodles mixed in at the last minute. A drizzle of your favorite table olive oil is a great way to finish the soup.

Serves 4.

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Fair argument, unfortunately my life isn’t as cut and dry as that.
I’d say I run into this sort of situation maybe once or twice a year (f that). I do a lot of travel and reading trying to understand traditional food culture, ingredients and cooking techniques. I spend time with many cooks and chefs and attend many culinary events that aren’t veg-specific (I eat vegetarian in these instances and try to give chefs the heads up before I get there). Occasionally (but rarely) I run into a situation where I am served, for example in this case, a soup. I tasted it, recognized it was clearly made with a chicken broth. I came home and did a version of it that fits in with the way I eat – now I can enjoy the soup often.
Am I going to beat myself up over it, no.


mike, i have to disagree. when people who claim to be vegan/vegetarian go around eating meat every now and then–for whatever reason–it hurts people who truly are vegans/vegetarians. when soi-disant “vegans” eat meat, they are simply not vegans. they are meat-eaters. i agree that the more people out there eating less meat, the better, but the labels vegatarian and vegan are clear. you’d never see a vegetarian restaurant carry one beef dish, for example. these labels exist, and are helpful, no matter why one chooses to forgo meat. but when they become bastardized, they lose their value. one who is abstinant doesn’t have sex to “educate their palette,” just as one who is truly vegetarian doesn’t taste meat as a learning exercise.


amy, pam–you’re missing the point. not all choices about vegetarianism and veganism are simple cases of ethical rights or wrongs. heidi is 100% right to want to understand everything about what she’s doing. that’s a large component in knowing when and why you you’re doing it correctly, like being vegetarian and vegan, for example.


Stop “educating your palette” and compromising your food choice ethics. Be an ethical vegetarian! Go vegan! Don’t eat any more animals or animal products.You’re well on your way but a vegetarian doesn’t eat any animals not just when they don’t feel like it!
I like chickpeas too.


In Thailand, they have Kao Suay, with many variations, but most have crunchy and boiled noodles in a curry. The Shan do it with a tomato sauce. Mmm…..


a “vegetarian” is someone who does not eat meat. not someone who tastes it from time to time.


That looks so delicious! Did you take the picture?

Vin Cache

That pasta looks like it could speak Italian to me!
I haven’t been here for a while but each time I visit I am in heaven.


Looks wonderful. I’d be interested to know if you were able to discern a difference between the chicken broth version and your veggie version.


Great site, great content, great recipes. You should take a look at the Cook’n Recipe Organizer to keep all the great recipes organized on your computer.


I must have missed this soup when I was in Italy, and what a shame! It looks so good. I love chick peas and noodles, so I’ll have to try it. Thanks for the recipe.

Susan Billie Taylor

Great recipe. I love simple soups like this.

Scott at Real Epicurean

The picture alone makes me want to gobble this soup right up. Can’t wait to try it, even in unusually warm for this time of year Florida.


Luv it when u improvise with the garbanzo beans for a change 🙂 Will definitely try this sometime aside from some regular stir fry rice noodles. cheers 🙂


Good recipes! Ultimate Chickpea Noodle Soup – the best! Thanks


Great soup, had it in Italy. I like to spice it up with some paprika flakes and grated cheese (the kids love the addition of stringy cheese in the soup)


Great photo of the chickpeas and noodles! I especially love the rough-hewn look of the bowl.


Can anyone help me…I am deathly allergic to nuts but am seeking a “cheese” that does not contain nuts…one that I can make and tastes good! Thanks for all who can offer ANY info!


This sounds yummy! Thanks for the recipe.


My favorite (somewhat similar) version of this is Nigella Lawson’s pasta and chickpea soup in How To Eat. It cooks slowly, makes the house smell great, and has just 5-6 ingredients. Simplicity itself on a cold winter afternoon.


I love the “palette education” philosophy: it’s one we might all well adopt, about everything from Brussels sprouts to, hmm, chilies and spices and and and … lovely post!


This has been one of my favorite soups since trying it in Italy when I was 18.
Your photo is mouthwatering!


ah nice!! fried noodles that go from crunchy to soggy as you gobble them … its fun, kinda like my hubby’s fav ‘American Chopsuey’. I would love to try this chickpea version with maybe a dash of hot spice?


That’s all I can say – this looks very very tasty. I like beans in different flavouring combinations. I’ll try your Chickpea noodle soup. Something tells me that it will be grate!

home cook

Yum! I need more chickpea recipes!


Sounds absolutely fantastic! Can’t wait to try it (w/homemade chicken stock, yum)


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