Dunno if this is truth or just one of those cozy myths, but I've heard that the Italian name for chickpeas or garbanzoes, "ceci," was used in historic terms as a password to distinguish the friendly Italians from the French, because the latter couldn't get their tongues around the "Cheh-chee" pronunciation, much like the biblical "shibboleth."

Be that as it may, it's a bean we do enjoy, and a delicious chickpea soup at Giuseppe's in North Palm Beach last weekend inspired me to come home and construct something similar. I looked over several Italian cookbooks, put my memory to work, and came up with a creation not quite like any of them but that seemed just right for this chilly winter evening. Only took about 30 minutes from start to finish, too!

I drained the liquid from a 16-ounce can of garbanzoes, rinsed them well and left them to soak in water while attending to the rest of the preparation.

Slice three or four garlic cloves paper thin and put them in a soup pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mince enough fresh rosemary and sage to make a total of about 1 teaspoon. Have ready 1/2 cup tomato paste and 2 cups beef broth (I used Minor's Beef Base as a quick alternative).

Sautee the garlic in the olive oil until it's aromatic and starting to brown. Add the rosemary and sage, then the tomato sauce, lower heat, and bring to the simmer. Take about three tablespoons of the chickpeas and mash them to a paste with the back of a spoon, and stir this in. Add the beef broth and 1 cup water; bring to the simmer, and then add the chickpeas. Simmer over medium heat and add 1/2 cup soup pasta (I used acini di pepe, a favorite of ours, which appears to be vermicelli sliced into tiny bits), cooking 10 minutes or so or until the pasta is just done. Check and correct seasoning and serve.

Although this is an almost meatless dish (and could be made all-vegetarian by substituting water for the broth), it's definitely one of those "meaty" dishes that doesn't leave you hungry for protein and goes very nicely with dry red table wine. (You could make it even more wine-friendly by stirring in a scoop of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, but still full from a big Sunday brunch earlier in the day, we didn't need it.)