Roman-style Chickpea and Tomato Soup With Bulgur

Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4
A bowl of Chickpea and Tomato Soup With Bulgur.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)
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This soup was inspired by ceci or chickpea soup that I first ate in Rome in a busy café on Via del Gesù. It was redolent of garlic and rosemary, brothy and flecked with tomatoes and a few tiny pasta bits.

This version replaces the pasta with bulgur, which gives the soup an addictive chewy texture. You can, of course, substitute orzo or another small soup pasta for the bulgur.

The soup starts with a deep flavor base of garlic, rosemary and tomato. If you have extra Parmesan rinds, add them for enhanced umami. I also like to use Red Boat’s fish sauce-infused salt for added umami. Sometimes I’ll even stir in a bit of Huy Fong Foods’ chile garlic sauce as a flavor hack for extra heat as the soup cooks.

From the story The ‘soup for dinner’ life: It’s easy, delicious. A never-boring way to slim down

Amp the umami and other taste notes with these unexpected flavor spikes and your soup will never be boring.

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Heat olive oil in a heavy, medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and rosemary and stir until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and keep stirring until paste is evenly distributed and cooked.


Add the can of tomatoes, stir well, lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil pools in the sauce, about 5 minutes, sometimes longer.


Add the broth, water and optional Parmesan rind, and bring to a boil. Add the chickpeas and bulgur.

To cook the chickpeas
To make the chickpeas if not using canned: Put the chickpeas in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Soak at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain the chickpeas and put in a pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, skim off any foam and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until the chickpeas are tender, about 50 minutes. When fully cooked, add to soup. Or, if making ahead, bring to room temperature while cooking the tomatoes, then add to soup.

Bring the soup back to a boil and then lower heat and simmer until the bulgur is fully cooked, about 20 minutes. (If you are using pasta, check for doneness after 8 minutes.) If soup seems too thick, add more broth or water. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Stir in a good handful of grated Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheese.


Serve topped with more grated cheese and a few parsley leaves for color.