Tuscan Chickpea Soup with Bread, Basil Pesto and Pine Nuts

October 26, 2012


Tuscan Chickpea Soup

Death is inevitable.

Unfortunately, the people we love are going to die, as are we. This past week my cousin's husband passed away.

He lived a long, exciting life, but that didn't make it any easier for her. As I watched my cousin navigate her loss, It got me thinking about grief, and the excruciating,  painful emotions it evokes.

It also reminded me that a person doesn't have to die for you to feel grief. It can be felt from the loss of a friendship, marriage, or even a life not lived, as in regrets.

When I was twelve-years-old, I lost one of the most important people in my life – my grandmother.

We were extremely close and I spent many nights a week sleeping on her couch so she wouldn't be alone. I didn't mind. I loved spending time with her. We would read, play board games or cook up a batch of fudge. Her home was a refuge for me from my chaotic home life.

I was alone with her the night she died. I was sleeping when she called out to me and said she didn't feel well. She sent me to get her pills off a high shelf where she kept them out of reach of twelve-year-old hands. With the help of a chair, I found them and ran back to her room.

When I reached her bedroom she didn't look well, and she told me to call her doctor. I bolted to the phone, somehow found his phone number, and called him.

My voice and hands were shaking and I told him he must come right away because my grandmother was very sick.

The doctor was terribly annoyed that I woke him up in the middle of the night and said he would see her in the morning. I yelled “you have to come now.” He hung up on me.

I called my parents and my father drove over. When my Dad arrived, I was sitting with my grandmother holding her lifeless hand.

My world was crushed,  and I honestly did not want to live anymore. I had so much guilt about not being able to convince that doctor to come to my grandmother's house.

It took me many years to realize that I couldn't have saved her. She was 77 years old, and it was her time to die.

Now, as I mourn the loss of a relationship, those old feelings of helplessness have returned. What could I have done better? Why couldn't I save it?

I realize now that the suffering I experienced as a twelve-year-old has stayed with me my entire life and my need to save  everyone has never left me.

One of my favorite authors, Pema Chodron, says, “nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”  Well, now I know.

I would like to end this by saying, if you are grieving, I am sorry for your pain. I hope you lean into your grief and embrace the fear, sorrow and loneliness,  and have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of your situation.

I say this because I wish someone had offered  me that advice when I lost my grandmother instead of telling me to move on and run from my feelings.

Now on to food.

It is an excellent time of year for comfort food and being a vegan doesn't mean you can't enjoy it as much as the next person. Yesterday I made this healthy Tuscan chickpea soup with tomatoes, bread, and pine nuts with a dollop of basil pesto.

The combination of chickpeas and basil pesto with pine nuts makes it a high protein, low fat and filling meal. Serve it with a hearty salad and save that extra pesto for a quick and easy pasta dish.

Hope you enjoy this Tuscan chickpea soup as much as I did.

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Tuscan Chickpea, Tomato & Bread Soup with Basil Pesto
Ordinary Vegan Tuscan Chickpea, Tomato & Bread Soup with Basil Pesto
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 4
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, cut and sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 14-0z can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chopped oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4½ cups vegetable stock
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 large slices of whole wheat or sour dough bread
  • 2½ cups freshly cooked chickpeas or canned
  • 4 tbsp basil pesto (recipe to follow)
Basil Pesto
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • ½ cup parsley leaves
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • approximately ½ - 1 cup vegetable broth (you can use oilve oil if you like but I think it is tasty with vegetable broth without all that saturated fat - you could also do half and half)
  • handful of shredded basil leaves to serve (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and heat. Add the onion, fennel, carrot and celery and saute to soften, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and stir as you cook for one minute. Add the wine and let it bubble away for a minute or two.
  2. Next, add the canned tomatoes with their juices, the herbs, sugar, vegetable stock and some salt and pper. Bring to boil, then cover and leave to simmer gently for about 25 minutes.
  3. While you wait, break the bread into rough chunks and toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil and some salt and scatter in a roasting pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until thoroughly dry and a little browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  4. About 10 minutes before you want to serve the soup, place half the chickpeas in a bowl and crush them a little with a potato masher. Add them to the soup with the remaining whole chickpeas and let simmer for 5 minutes. Next add the toasted bread, stir well and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings.
  5. Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Spoon some pesto in the center. Drizzle with olive oil and finish with a generous amount of freshly shredded basil, if you like. The olive oil and basil are optional.
Basil Pesto
  1. Place the basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic cloves, salt & pepper and ½ cup vegetable broth in food processor and process to a paste. Add more vegetable broth (or olive oil if using) and pulse until you get a runny pesto. Pour into a bowl.


5 thoughts on “Tuscan Chickpea Soup with Bread, Basil Pesto and Pine Nuts

  1. Oh, Nancy, what a sad story! There is no worse feeling than a child’s impotence in the face of uncaring adults! I can see how you would have been scarred by that experience. Congratulations on going vegan, though – and know that you are helping to save so many others.

  2. I lost my mother this month & this was such a kind & thoughtful post. The recipe looks great. I discovered your podcast today, listening to #6 about seeds. It so intreaged me, I had to look up your website. What a nice find! Thank you for all your work!

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