SICILIAN VESPERS and MINESTRA DI CECI (Chickpea Soup)

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Pulses for sale in Palermo (chickpeas on the left)
Giuseppe Verdi composed the music for the opera I Vespri Siciliani (Sicilian Vespers) and along with the common operatic themes of love, guilt and duty; it commemorates the Sicilian revolt, which began at Easter in 1282, when the citizens of Palermo rose up against their oppressive Angevin (French) rulers. The French were massacred and Sicily was presented to Peter III of Aragon.
It is said that the revolt began when the church bell was rung to indicate to the worshipers that it was time for the evening service. The church was the Chiesa di Santo Spirito in Palermo (the church is now also called Chiesa dei Vespri). In the Catholic Church, the evening ritual is known as Vespers (a series of chants, litanies and prayers held each evening and  that are especially popular for the Easter Vigil). Whether it happened on the Easter Saturday, Monday or Tuesday is uncertain – I have read so many different accounts.Later the revolt become known as the Sicilian Vespers.
The Sicilian for chickpeas (ciceri, riciri cicirri) is a difficult word to pronounce correctly if one is French. Whether it is myth or fact, it is said that Sicilians held up a chickpea and asked those suspected of being French to tell them what it was. Those who were able to pronounce the word correctly were spared and those who mispronounced the word were unmistakably French and slaughtered.
It is a time to eat chickpeas and to celebrate Sicilian solidarity.
Rosetta who lives in Ragusa uses rosemary to flavour a very simple, but wonderful wet pasta dish she makes with chickpeas.
Ceci is the Italian word for chickpeas. The soup or wet pasta dish is fairly dense.
INGREDIENTS
chickpeas (dry), 500g,
pasta, 200g
rosemary, several sprigs
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
PROCESSES
Soak chickpeas in cold water overnight – they will swell so it is important to immerse them fully in water.
Drain the water and change it (optional). Place sufficient water to cover them, add rosemary and bring slowly to the boil. Cook the pulses until soft but preferably still whole.
Drain the chickpeas and return the water to the pot. Add more water if necessary. Add salt and when the water has started to boil again, toss in the pasta and cook till almost to your liking (do not overcook).
Add the chickpeas, a good slurp of your best extra virgin olive oil and freshly, ground black pepper and serve.
 
Earlier posts containing chickpeas are:
PANELLE  (chickpea fritters – photo above = Antica Focacceria di San Francesco, Palermo)
MINESTRA DI CECI CON FINOCCHIO (Chickpea soup with wild fennel)

 

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