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Soup of cicerchie “alla pizzaiola” The cicerchia, the tasty pulse found in various parts of Puglia, can be cooked in many ways but “alla pizzaiola” it comes into its own by Dario Ersetti
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Soup of cicerchie “alla pizzaiola”. Photo by Dario Ersetti

The cicerchia is a pulse that had almost disappeared but that now, with the rediscovery of peasant cooking and the food of the past, is becoming more and more fashionable. It has always been a great favorite at Ceglie Messapica, in the Brindisi area, where it is cooked very simply, “a pignata”, in the classic glazed terracotta pot with onion, tomato, parsley and hot chili. At the end they add garlic fried in oil.

We are going to give three very appetizing variations, starting with the lightest and ending with the tastiest.

Cook finely sliced celery, carrot and onion with the cicerchie. To serve, add a swirl of oil.

For a more flavorsome alternative, finely chop celery, carrot and onion and gently fry in oil (or, even better, in pig fat as they used to do), add this to the pot of cooked cicerchie and let the flavors mingle for a few minutes, adjusting the salt and pepper.

The third way, and the best, is to let the cooked cicerchie absorb the flavor of a pizzaiola sauce which will give these pulses that extra zing.

The cicerchia is a strange pulse. It survives when all the others fail in drought, low temperatures and other adverse atmospheric conditions and farmers, instead of praising this hardy plant, have the saying “You’re like a cicerchia”, meaning that you are worthless. In fact, when farmers ate cicerchie it meant there was nothing else available. In Puglia it is called fasul a gheng, cicercola, old woman’s tooth, square pea, tólica in southern Salento and dóleghe in the Ceglie Messapica area. At Terlizzi, in the hamlet of Santa Maria di Cesano they hold the Festival of pizzarello, olives and cicerchie; at Spinazzola there is the Feast of Saints, chick-peas and cicerchie; at Cassano they hold cicerchie-tastings at the Beer Festival.



The recipe


  6 servings:


- 1 kg of cicerchie

- 3 cloves of garlic

- 100 g of capers

- 100 g of pitted black olives

- 200 g of tomato

- a handful of parsley

- 1 teaspoon of oregano

- a little hot chili

- extra-virgin olive oil

- salt


In deciding on quantities, keep in mind that cicerchie do not swell when cooked: a spoonful of raw cicerchie corresponds to a spoonful of cooked cicerchie.

Soak the cicerchie overnight, then cook in a terracotta pot with water, salt and a garlic clove. Separately prepare the pizzaiola sauce by very finely chopping 2 garlic cloves, capers, olives, parsley, oregano and hot chili. Fry lightly in oil for a few minutes, add the sliced tomatoes and heat, adding salt if needed. When the cicerchie are cooked add the pizzaiola sauce, stirring gently to mix the flavors for 5 minutes. Scatter with chopped parsley and serve if desired with a slice of bread, toasted or cut into small squares and fried in oil. Delicious!

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