1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas (or 2 cups canned, drained chickpeas)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves)
1/2 bunch kale, thicker stems removed and discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick strips
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cups (16 ounces) tomato puree
2 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock or broth
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, to taste
1. If using dried chickpeas, soak in cold water to cover for 4 to 6 hours. Skip this step if using canned chickpeas.
2. In a medium-size pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and thyme. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the kale, stirring to coat it with the oil. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, until kale is somewhat softened. Stir in the red peppers, increase the heat to high, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. Add the tomato puree and the stock or broth and bring to a boil.
3. Once the liquid boils, add barley and soaked, drained chickpeas. (Do not add canned chickpeas at this point). Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes. If using canned chickpeas, stir them into the mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, checking the tenderness of the barley and the chickpeas, both of which should be al dente.
Ladle the ragôut into warmed soup bowls and top each serving with grated cheese if desired. Serves 8.
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