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Posted on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 10:30 a.m.

Italian spinach and chickpea soup will warm and nourish you

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

It's January, so it's finally cold here in Michigan after a bit of unseasonably balmy weather after the holidays.But folks are still hanging on to those New Year's resolutions to improve their health; so while the comfort of a rich, hot casserole is awfully tempting, something lighter but just as satisfying is required.

It only makes sense, then, to share a recipe that offers warmth and nutrition as well as exceptional depth of flavor.

I received a lovely marketing gift of Grana Padano, an Italian cheese that is similar to well-aged Parmesan with its grainy texture and nutty flavor. So, of course, I had to play with it! The soup is very nice on its own, but is really enriched and enhanced by the cheese.

So here's a lovely, fragrant, delicious dish made with chickpeas and spinach. Serve it with a good, crusty whole grain bread, and you've got a perfect light meal that's still hearty and comforting.

Italian Spinach and Chickpea Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup orzo
2 cups baby spinach leaves
grated Grana Padano or Parmesan, for serving

Heat oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly caramelized.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add chickpeas, rosemary, wine, water, salt, pepper, tomato sauce and orzo; bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to simmer for 1 hour.  Stir occasionally to keep pasta from sticking.

Stir in spinach leaves and cook just until wilted. Serve immediately, topped with cheese.

Serves 4-6.

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Mary Bilyeu writes about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

You should also visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.


Judy Freedman

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

Hi Mary, I was eager to make this soup and looked all over town for whole wheat orzo. Finally found some online and have ordered it. But in the meantime, I made the soup per the recipe but using barley and it was fantastic and quick and easy! Thanks for the receipe.

Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Hi, Judy - Barley was an excellent substitution! I don't know that I've ever seen whole wheat orzo anywhere, either. I'm so glad you liked the soup - I love when people write to tell me that they've tried something and enjoyed it ... :)

Bread Baker

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 1:49 a.m.

I had a soup like this in Tuscany once! So good. With some fresh homemade bread, like this one I made a few weeks ago: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. I think I've got the weekend soup all figured out now. Thanks!

Mary Bilyeu

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Thank you so, so much for letting me know that you made and enjoyed the soup! The bread looked like the ideal accompaniment ... :)

Bread Baker

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

It was awesome! The bread was perfect with it. Thanks so much for the recipe!

Mary Bilyeu

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

Oh, the bread is gorgeous! That would be a lovely accompaniment. The soup was so, so good - particularly the next day, when the flavors had really blended well. I do hope you enjoy it ... :)


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

Pardon me Mary but how can you say you had to &quot;play with&quot; the Grana Padano, it looks like you simply sprinkled it on top at the very end.

Mary Bilyeu

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

I used the cheese in a way that I wouldn't ordinarily have for this soup, and have played with it in other ways, as well, that haven't been posted. I've enjoyed it in one form or another each day since I received the gift. I don't want to cook with the cheese in such a way that it's buried, indistinguishable from other flavors. &quot;Playing&quot; doesn't necessarily mean doing something wildly innovative; it simply means I've tried to savor the cheese's unique qualities in ways other than merely grating it onto pasta.