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Recipes for rustic, hearty Italian soups

Skip the candy corn and warm up with a traditional northern Italian dish that combines pork and chickpeas.

Photo by anthony tieuli; Food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc

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While Americans dress up for Halloween, other cultures celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ days (November 1 and 2) with dishes tailored to the occasions. In the northern Italian region of Lombardy, a soup with chickpeas and pork, minestra dei morti (soup of the dead), anchors the table. Rustic, hearty, aromatic, uncomplicated, and cheap, the soup was originally made with a pig’s head and divided into two courses: first the chickpeas and broth, then the meat. These days, many cooks use bone-in pork ribs and serve it as a single dish.

For ease, I’ve built the recipe around canned chickpeas, saving the traditional home-cooked dried chickpeas and broth for a variation.

LOMBARDY-STYLE SOUP OF THE DEAD (MINESTRA DEI MORTI)

Makes about 2½ quarts

While many recipes specify bone-in meat such as ribs, I keep it simpler and use country-style ribs instead.

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2 pounds boneless pork butt country-style ribs, dried with paper towels

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Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

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2 large celery ribs, trimmed and chopped

2 large bay leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves

1½ tablespoons pressed or grated garlic (about 7 medium cloves)

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

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1½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth

1 large (1 pound, 13 ounce) can chickpeas, about 3¼ cups, drained and rinsed

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Grated Parmesan, for serving, optional

Sprinkle the pork all over with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the pork in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn the pieces and continue cooking to brown the other side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer the pork to a bowl (leaving the fat in the pot) and when cool enough, cut into ¾-inch pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat; set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and 1½ teaspoons salt, and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to dissolve the fond, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables release their juices, about 8 minutes; scrape the bottom of the pot to dissolve the fond. Adjust the heat to medium-high, add the sage, garlic, and rosemary, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth and reserved pork with its accumulated juices and bring to a strong simmer, skimming foam from the surface as necessary. Adjust the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the pork is tender, about 40 minutes. Add the chickpeas and pepper to taste, stir, replace cover, and cook until the chickpeas are heated through, about 10 minutes longer.

Off heat, rest the soup for about 15 minutes and, with a spoon or wad of paper towels, remove as much of the fat from the surface as possible. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and reheat, if necessary. Add most of the parsley and stir. Serve, sprinkling with the remaining parsley and passing the grated Parmesan, if using.

LOMBARDY-STYLE SOUP OF THE DEAD (MINESTRA DEI MORTI) WITH HOME-COOKED CHICKPEAS

Makes about 2½ quarts

To prepare your soup the old-fashioned way, start soaking dried chickpeas the night before. Authentic recipes cook the chickpeas from scratch and use the cooking liquid as broth. Cooking times for dried chickpeas depend largely on their age, condition, and soaking time. Mine soaked for 8 hours and required just 45 minutes of cooking to become tender.

Before you follow the recipe for Minestra dei Morti, cook the chickpeas and reserve the broth; the soup instructions resume in Step 3:

1) Stir 2 tablespoons salt into 2 quarts water to dissolve. Add 1½ cups dried chickpeas, stir, and set aside to soak for 8 to 12 hours. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

2) In a large saucepan over high heat, bring to a strong simmer 2½ quarts water; the chickpeas; ½ teaspoon baking soda; 1 large carrot, peeled and quartered lengthwise; 1 rib celery, halved lengthwise; 1 large onion, halved; and 2 large bay leaves. Skim foam from the surface as necessary. Adjust heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot, and simmer until the chickpeas are tender, at least 45 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes, remove and discard the vegetables and bay leaves, and drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid separately (you should have about 1½ quarts).

3) When the chickpeas are nearly finished cooking, prepare Minestra dei Morti as directed through the point of cooking the sage, garlic, and rosemary. Substitute chickpea cooking liquid for chicken broth, add it to the pot along with the reserved pork and juices, and proceed with the recipe.

TIP: SAVE THOSE PARMESAN RINDS

After grating the last bit of cheese from a piece of Parmesan, I save the rind in an airtight container in the freezer to add to simmering soups and broths. Especially useful when there’s no meat in the recipe, a small piece or two subtly enriches and deepens the overall flavor.
Anthony Tieuli
After grating the last bit of cheese from a piece of Parmesan, I save the rind in an airtight container in the freezer to add to simmering soups and broths. Especially useful when there’s no meat in the recipe, a small piece or two subtly enriches and deepens the overall flavor.

SOUP OF THE DEAD WITHOUT PORK (MINESTRA DEI MORTI SENZA MAIALE)

Makes about 2½ quarts

Anchovies add umami and pasta adds heartiness to this untraditional pork-free variation.

1½ quarts low-sodium vegetable broth

2 or 3 2-inch pieces Parmesan rind, plus extra grated Parmesan for serving

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

2 medium onions, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 large celery ribs, trimmed and chopped

2 large bay leaves

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves

1½ tablespoons pressed or grated garlic (about 7 medium cloves)

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced anchovy (about 5 fillets, preferably oil-packed)

1 large (1 pound, 13 ounce) can chickpeas, about 3¼ cups, drained and rinsed

1 cup small pasta, such as orzo or ditalini

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the broth and Parmesan rind to a strong simmer. Adjust heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until broth is infused and Parmesan rind is softened, about 1 hour.

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and 1½ teaspoons salt and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables release their juices, about 8 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-high, add the sage, garlic, rosemary, and anchovy, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the infused broth and Parmesan rind and bring to a strong simmer, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer to blend the flavors, about 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas and pepper to taste, stir, replace cover, and simmer until the chickpeas are heated through, about 10 minutes longer. Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaves, add the pasta and 1 teaspoon salt, stir, and cook until pasta is tender, about 8 minutes longer. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Add most of the parsley and stir. Serve, drizzling with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkling with the remaining parsley, and passing the grated Parmesan.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.