I was served a version of this dish at a neighborhood restaurant in Milan last fall and was completely smitten with it. It provided the comforting, belly-warming satisfaction a chilly night calls for, and it charmed me with the rustic-chic elegance that came from pairing chickpeas with farro, an ancient variety of wheat that is officially on trend these days, I'm happy to say.
When I began to experiment with my own take on it, I realized that the dish involved the same basic technique as a familiar favorite, pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans), which, growing up in Queens, I always knew as "pasta fazool." The basic idea is the same: The classic onion-carrot-celery triad is softened in a pot with some garlic; then soup, tomatoes and herbs are stirred in along with the beans (which, here, are chickpeas); after those cook for a while, the grain is added and cooked al dente.
In this recipe, of course, the grain is farro, rather than the usual pasta, and it lends an appealing chew and subtly nutty flavor to the stew.
Besides the ancient grain, another unique element here is the luxurious texture of the broth, owed to the creamy puree of chickpeas that is stirred into the pot toward the end. Baby spinach leaves also are added at that point and are cooked until just wilted, to lend fresh flecks of green throughout. Once plated, the dish is finished with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for a quick one-pot dinner that's as homey as it is stylish.
CHICKPEA AND FARRO STEW
4 servings (makes 6 cups)
• 3 cups cooked or no-salt-added canned chickpeas (from two 15-ounce cans; drained and rinsed, if using canned)
• 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1 medium carrot, scrubbed well, then diced
• 1 rib celery, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
• 1 sprig rosemary
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup pearled farro (see headnote)
• 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
• 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Combine 1 cup of the chickpeas and 1/2 cup of the broth in a blender and blend to form a smooth puree.
Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrot and celery; cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the remaining 2 cups of chickpeas, the remaining 3 cups of broth, the tomatoes and their juices, the rosemary, salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the farro and increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes.
Discard the rosemary sprig. Add the chickpea puree, then stir in the spinach and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until it is just wilted.
Serve hot, garnished with the cheese.
Nutrition | Per serving: 440 calories, 19 g protein, 65 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 520 mg sodium, 15 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar