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Zuppa di Ceci Neri: Rustic Italian Black Chickpea Soup

Zuppa di Ceci Neri: Rustic Italian Black Chickpea Soup

Zuppa di Ceci Neri Recipe

Black Chickpea Soup, or zuppa di ceci neri, is a hearty, rustic Italian soup with a deep, rich flavor, which is a hallmark of the Puglia region.

Black chickpea soup, or zuppa di ceci neri in Italian, is a nourishing soup with a deep flavor. Ceci neri (black chickpeas) are tastier than their cream-colored relatives.

The black and white world in which Julius Knipl, protagonist of “Cheap Novelties, The Pleasures of Urban Decay,” moves made me want to cook something along the same color lines. I have a package of ceci neri (black chickpeas) from Italy (Puglia, to be precise) and decided to make a soup with them. The soup is a staple in Italian cuisine, especially in the colder months, due to its warming and comforting qualities.

This soup is a fine example of Italian cucina povera (peasant cooking), where simple, locally available ingredients are turned into nourishing and flavorful dishes. It reflects the Italian culinary philosophy of using modest ingredients to create meals that are rich in flavor.

Zuppa di Ceci Neri Recipe

Black chickpeas, also known as Kala Chana, are a type of legume that is quite popular in Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. They are smaller and darker than the more commonly found beige chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and have a distinct, nutty flavor. Their texture is somewhat firmer and they hold their shape well when cooked, making them suitable for salads, stews, and curries.

See Also
Roasted Beet and Mixed Vegetable Soup

Flavor Profile:

  • Taste: Black chickpeas have a robust, earthy flavor which is more pronounced than regular chickpeas. They are nuttier and have a slightly smoky undertone.
  • Texture: After cooking, they remain firm and chewy, providing a satisfying bite.

Nutritional Aspects:

  • Black chickpeas are rich in protein, fiber, and several key vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent nutritional addition to a variety of diets.

Cooking Tips:

  • Soaking: Like other legumes, black chickpeas typically require soaking before cooking, preferably overnight. This reduces cooking time and makes them easier to digest.
  • Cooking: They can take longer to cook than regular chickpeas. Pressure cooking is an efficient method to soften them while retaining their texture.


If you cannot find black chickpeas, here are some alternatives you can use in recipes:

  1. Regular Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans): While milder in flavor, they can be used as a direct substitute in most recipes. They have a similar texture and absorb flavors well.
  2. Black Beans: They can mimic the color and heartiness of black chickpeas, though the taste will be different. Black beans are softer and have a creamier texture.
  3. Puy Lentils: These can be a good substitute in terms of texture and their ability to hold shape. They have a peppery flavor that can add depth to dishes.
  4. Kidney Beans: These are larger but can work in recipes where the robust flavor and firmer texture of black chickpeas are required.

Rustic Italian Black Chickpea Soup

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Zuppa di Ceci Neri Recipe

Zuppa di Ceci Neri: Rustic Italian Black Chickpea Soup

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5 from 6 reviews

  • Author: Simona Carini
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Units Scale
  • 1 cup (6 oz / 170 g) dried black chickpeas (ceci neri)
  • 3 cups (700 ml) water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (22.5 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (240 ml) chicken or vegetable broth (preferably homemade)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 piece of kombu (2-inch / 5-cm, optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 small leek, white and light green portion, sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary needles
  • A pinch of freshly ground black pepper


Preparing the Chickpeas:

  1. Rinse the chickpeas and soak them overnight in 3 cups (700 ml) of water.

Making the Soup: 2. Transfer the chickpeas and soaking water to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue boiling for 8-10 minutes, then reduce the heat.

  1. Meanwhile, heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the minced shallot and cook until softened, stirring often. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Warm up the broth until hot. Skim any foam from the chickpea water and add the shallot, garlic, hot broth, bay leaf, and kombu (if using).
  3. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the chickpeas are tender.
  4. Halfway through the chickpea cooking time, prepare the leek. Clean and slice it into thin half-moons. In another skillet, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the leek and rosemary, cooking until soft.
  5. Once the chickpeas are cooked, stir in the leek mixture. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Finishing the Soup: 8. Ladle one cup of the soup into a blender or immersion blender cup. Blend until creamy and return to the saucepan.

  1. Use the immersion blender to briefly process the soup, creating a mixture of textures.
  2. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.


  • Soaking Time: Ensure chickpeas are well soaked to reduce cooking time.
  • Kombu Addition: Kombu adds umami but is optional.
  • Texture Variety: Blending part of the soup creates a pleasing mix of textures.
  • Leek Preparation: Cleaning leek thoroughly is crucial to avoid grit.
  • Adjust Seasoning: Taste and adjust for salt before serving.
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 60 mins
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Simmering
  • Cuisine: Italian
View Comments (8)
  • THanks for submitting this recipe. I HAd this soup in Puglia 2 years ago and could not find any mention of it anywhere. One of the best soups I e ever had and very unique

    Did you develop the recipe yourself ?

  • Dear Joe, thank you so much for your comment. Glad to read you have nice memories of your visit to Puglia. Yes, I developed the recipe myself. It includes some things I do when cooking legumes (like using bay leaf and kombu), personal preferences in terms of ingredients (like using leeks) and details from local recipes I read (like the use of rosemary).

  • Despite being a vegan and cooking beans and lentils in most of my recipes, I’m not familiar with black chick peas! I’m fascinated and will look for them to try your delicious looking soup! And thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting..

  • Thank you, Judee, for your comment. I like to try new varieties of legumes and was glad to find these pretty black chickpeas. I hope you will find them too :)

  • Hi! Seeing your recipe brought back wonderful memories—my Mom would make a similar soup whenever someone visited from Italy and brought her these delicious chickpeas! Thanks!

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