Zuppa di Pasta e Ceci

6 cups Rich Chicken Stock
1 to 2 bunches fresh greens (I used kale)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon finely diced pancetta or thick, country-style bacon
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed with the flat blade of a knife
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas, well drained (I used one can of chickpeas, drained)
1 cup pasta (small shapes are best, I used mini wheels)
1 dried red chili pepper, if desired
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino sardo, or other firm cheese

Bring the chicken stock slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat.

While the stock is heating, prepare the greens, stripping away the tough center stalks where necessary and slivering the leaves.  You will have 7 to 8 cups trimmed and slivered greens.

Combine the oil and pancetta in a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat.  Cook until the pancetta fat starts to run and the the little cubes begin to brown and  crisp.  Add the garlic and continue cooking, raising the heat slightly, until the garlic has browned on all sides.  Remove the garlic and set aside.  Add the greens to the pan with the water clinging to their leaves. (You may not be able to get all the greens in at once; let the early ones cook down a bit, then add another handful, and keep doing that until all the greens are in the pan.)  You may wish to add about 1/2 inch of boiling water to the pan to keep the greens from scorching.  Cook the greens until they are thoroughly limp, adding salt and pepper to taste.

By now the stock should be simmering.  Add the greens and pancetta to the stock.  You may add a tablespoon or so of liquid left in the bottom of the greens pan, but don't add a lot more because it may darken the clear, rich color of the stock.  If your wish, chop the reserved garlic  clove and add it to the stock.  Stir in the chickpeas and pasta, along with as much or as little or the dried red chili as you wish. (Add the diced cooked chicken, if available, at this point.)  Let simmer until the pasta is done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve immediately, while the soup is hot.  Pass the grated parmigiano at the table.

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