This filling soup is easy to make, tasty and virtually fat-free. Offer crusty bread as an accompaniment. For a main meal, serve with a little strong-flavoured cheese, which tastes very good with the soup.
Use small broccoli florets instead of asparagus. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and the quantity in this soup will provide about one-quarter of the recommended daily intake of that vital vitamin. * There are many tiny pasta shapes for soup (called pastina in Italy). Orzo is rice-shaped; other shapes are stelline (stars), ditalini (tubes), conchigliette (shells) and farfallini (bow ties). You can also use larger pasta shapes (penne or rigatoni, for example), if you prefer. * For a spicier soup, season with cayenne instead of black pepper, or add a few drops of Tabasco sauce.
Chickpeas, along with other pulses, are a good source of dietary fibre, particularly the soluble fibre that can help to reduce high blood cholesterol levels. * Asparagus is a rich source of many of the B vitamins, especially folate. A good intake of folate is important during the early stages of pregnancy, to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. New research suggests that folate may also have a role in helping to prevent Alzheimer's disease.
B1, E, niacin * B6, folate * copper, iron