Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ceci, Spinach and Shells

A take on Pasta e Ceci, I started out with my twist on "Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter" as the base and went from there, adding spinach, ground fennel and basil instead of the traditional rosemary and olive oil.  A tasty soup for a cold blustery evening.

Makes about 2 to 3 quarts

For the tomato sauce:
1  14.5 ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed
4 Tbl butter
1 cup rough chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, halved
1 tsp ground fennel seed
1 heaping tsp anchovy paste
1 cup water

Place all ingredients into a 4 or 5 quart soup pot, bring up to a boil and then down to a low simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool the mixture a bit and then puree in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree right in the pot.

For the soup:
The tomato sauce
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked chick peas (or two 14.5 ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
1  1/2 cups mini shell pasta ( or ditalini, tubetti or elbows )
1 heaping Tbl home made or commercially prepared basil pesto( or 12 finely sliced fresh basil leaves)
2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves, thick stems removed
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan plus lots more for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste if needed

Add the tomato sauce, 5 cups of the chicken broth and the chick peas to the soup pot, bring up to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the pasta, bring back up to the boil and then simmer until the pasta is just al dente.  depending on your pasta this will take 6 to 8 minutes, give or take.
At this point if the soup seems to thick, add that sixth cup of chicken broth and bring back up to a simmer.
Stir in the pesto or basil leaves and the spinach and simmer until the spinach wilts.
Stir in the quarter cup of parmesan and season with salt and pepper if desired.  Serve in bowls topped with more parmesan.

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