When you go to prepare the broccoli rabe, cut about 1/4" off the bottom thick stems as they can be pretty tough. Once chopped and well washed, dunk the vegetable in boiling salted water for just a minute or two - quickly drain them in a colander and then plunk them in ice cold water to finish the blanching process. The base for the soup begins by sautéing onions and garlic until they become tender; then thick tomato paste with a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar is added and allowed to cook down for a couple minutes. Vegetable broth, water, chunky fire-roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and the blanched broccoli rabe are stirred in and this mixture simmers until the the greens are tender. Be sure to check for seasonings before you serve it - stir in salt and fresh ground pepper if needed and you could even add a dash or two more of balsamic to give it more bite if you like.
The tomato paste gives this soup gusto with a good mouth feel - the paste freezes well, so I throw blobs (about 1 tablespoons worth) on a baking sheet and freeze them. When firm, I pluck them off and store them in a zip-loc bag until needed - this way you don't have to worry about the opened can in the refrigerator going moldy. You could also splurge and buy the paste in a tube for easy storage! If you don't care for garbanzo beans, you could use the same amount of cannellini beans instead. For a hearty finish, we served thick toasted slices of a rustic bread inside the bowl to truly make this an extremely filling and delicious meal.
Hearty Peasant Soup