- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 pound pancetta, cut in 1/2-inch dice
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
- 2 celery ribs, cut in 1/2-inch dice
- 1 large or 2 small carrots peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed, divided
- 2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 1 bundle fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 quart water
- 3 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
- 5 to 6 (1/2-inch) slices country style bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Coat a large pot with olive oil, add the pancetta and bring to a medium heat. When the pancetta starts to become crispy, add the onion, celery, carrots, 3 cloves of garlic, pinch of crushed red pepper and season lightly with salt. Sweat the veggies for 6 to 7 minutes or until they become very aromatic and start to soften.
Drain the water from the soaked chickpeas, rinse and add to the pot. Add the chicken stock, thyme bundle, bay leaves and 1 quart of water. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chickpeas are very soft and falling apart, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off the heat, season the water with salt and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Fill a skillet with olive oil until it is about 1/2-inch deep, and the remaining 3 garlic cloves, the rosemary leaves and a pinch of crushed red pepper and bring it to a medium heat. Remove the garlic once it is golden; it has fulfilled its garlic destiny. Add the bread cubes and cook until they start to become crispy and golden. (They will absorb a LOT of the oil. That's why they taste good!) Season with salt and remove the croutons from the oil to a bowl, reserving the rosemary oil. MMMMM!
Add the infused oil to the soup. Puree the soup in a food processor, blender or good old fashioned food mill. Correct the consistency and seasoning, if necessary. If the soup is too thick, cook it a little more to reduce it, or thin it by adding more stock or water. Taste to be sure the seasoning is perfect.
Ladle the soup into serving bowls, top with the croutons and finish with a large drizzle of olive oil.
See ya ladle!