The next best thing to having an Italian grandma

by April on October 15, 2012

Minestra di Ceci
In Italy there’s an organization called the Italian Academy of Cuisine, which was founded 60 years ago to preserve their culinary heritage. The result of their efforts is a phonebook-sized cookbook that I just bought, titled La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy.


Only Italians would have an academy of cuisine dedicated to preserving recipes. They clearly have their priorities straight.


These are grandma’s recipes. Simple ingredients, yes, but sometimes it seems like a step or two was left out. For that reason, I think a beginning cook might get a little frustrated with this book. But overall, it’s an incredible reference for Italian country cooking, and a far cheaper way for me to get my Italy fix than hopping across the pond.

Minestra di Ceci

From La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy, with a couple of added notes in the directions.


  • 1 lb dried chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 oz prosciutto crudo, chopped
  • 1 lb plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 3 endive leaves, cut in pieces
  • 10 oz pork rib meat, cut in pieces
  • grated pecorino romano
  • toasted slices of bread, such as ciabatta
  • salt and pepper


  1. Place chickpeas in a pot and cover with water. Add baking soda. Let soak for 24 hours.
  2. In a pot, heat the oil and butter and sauté the onion, parsley, garlic, and prosciutto.
  3. Drain chickpeas and add them to the pot.
  4. Add tomatoes, stir, then add 12 cups of cold water.
  5. Raise the heat, letting soup come to a boil. Add celery, endive, pork, salt, and pepper.
  6. Cook over low heat for 3 hours, or until water is reduced by half.
  7. Place a slice of bread in each bowl, ladle soup over, and top with pecorino.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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