Chickpea and Orzo Soup with Pancetta

I love this soup. It’s lovely and thick, almost like a stew, has lots of veg, some pasta, the saltiness of bacon (good currency to persuade my kids to eat it) and the welcome bite of chickpeas. It’s also quite forgiving – I’ve substituted four carrots instead of three if I don’t have a rib of celery and rocket for the baby kale. Even some frozen peas would work too. It works a treat as an all in one supper for me. I’d eat it nearly every day if I could.

Makes 4 bowls:

1-2 tblsp olive oil

1 onion (red or brown) diced

3 carrots peeled and diced

1 rib of celery diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1-2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped

1 litre of vegetable stock

120g of orzo

1 tin chickpeas drained (note – cannellini beans also work well – I’ll tend to use one or other as I always have at least one in the press)

130g pancetta, fried until crisp and patted on kitchen paper

Handful of rocket leaves or baby kale or spinach – any soft greens will work

8-10 diced cherry tomatoes and 1 tblsp chopped basil mixed, to serve, if you like.

Grated parmesan is also good, to serve on top

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot and gently sauté the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and rosemary until softened but not coloured. This will take about ten minutes or so.  Add in the orzo and drained chickpeas and stir, followed by the stock. Stir and bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes until the orzo is cooked through.

Now add the pancetta and stir the greens in, taste and season if needed. Ladle into bowls and top with the tomato topping if desired.

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