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Chickpea Soup With Tuma Cheese

A chickpea soup from Sicily that's creamy and rich, with Tuma cheese added for texture and flavor, excerpted from the new cookbook, The Food of Sicily.

9:00 AM EDT on October 30, 2023

Chickpea soup with Tuma cheese

Chickpea soup with Tuma cheese. Excerpted from The Food of Sicily by Fabrizia Lanza (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2023. Photographs by Guy Ambrosino.

Few people are better qualified to talk Sicilian food than Fabrizia Lanza, who grew up in a Sicilian winemaking family and who now runs a cooking school founded by her mother. She also writes books, including the fabulous new volume The Food of Sicily: Recipes from a Sun-Drenched Culinary Crossroads, which includes this chickpea soup (minestra di ceci) recipe, which features ditalini pasta and the Sicilian cheese tuma (though you can substitute provola if need be).

Food of Sicily cover
The Food of Sicily, a book by Fabrizia Lanza

In Sicily, farmers grow mainly two types of chickpeas: black, which are difficult to soften fully and therefore digest, and the more familiar buff-colored ones. Among the latter, the most delicious are a variety called Pascià, which are grown in the area around Palermo. Nicely plump, they produce a rich, creamy texture ideal for this hearty soup. You can still find a few shops and street vendors in Palermo that sell all kinds of dried legumes, as well as seeds and nuts, piled high in big bags like you see in the souks of Marrakesh and Casablanca. 

Chickpea Soup with Tuma Cheese

Chickpea Soup with Tuma Cheese

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Recipe by Fabrizia Lanza


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 1 ¾ cups (350 g) dried chickpeas

  • 1 medium 1 yellow onion, finely chopped

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil

  • 1 1 tomato, peeled and diced, or 1 tablespoon estratto (sun-dried tomato paste) or other good-quality tomato paste

  • ½ cup (100 g) chopped wild fennel or a combination of equal parts fresh dill and parsley (optional)

  • 1 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

  • 2 2 bay leaves

  • 3 quarts 3 (3 L) water

  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 9 ounces 9 (250 g) ditalini pasta

  • 6 ounces 6 (170 g) tuma cheese or provola, cut into small dice

  • Dried oregano, preferably wild, for serving


  • The night before you plan to make the soup, place the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with plenty of water. Set aside to soak overnight.
  • The next day, in a large pot, cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato, wild fennel (if using), garlic, and bay leaves. Drain the soaked chickpeas and add them to the pot. Stir to coat everything in oil. Pour in the 3 quarts (3 L) water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the soup simmers gently, cover the pot, and cook until the chickpeas are tender, 2 to 3 hours. While the soup simmers, periodically skim off any foam that collects on the surface and discard.
  • When the chickpeas are fully tender, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the pasta to the soup and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  • To serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls and top with a spoonful of the diced cheese and a pinch of dried oregano.


  • The soup, up to the pasta step, can be made up to 3 days ahead, cooled completely, and refrigerated. Reheat gently, adding more water as needed to thin it, then add the pasta and continue as directed.
  • Excerpted from The Food of Sicily by Fabrizia Lanza (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2023. Photographs by Guy Ambrosino.

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