Pasta and ceci, pasta with chickpeas

I’ve snubbed this dish for many years, but now that I’ve cooked it again, I find it delicious.  I don’t consider myself a picky eater, but mushy pasta has always been in the category of “never!”  This is such a firm rule for me that I’ve never ordered a pasta dish in a restaurant outside of Italy, because I’m too afraid that I’ll get overcooked pasta.  I’d rather eat something else than find myself staring in disappointment at a dish I can’t eat.

Because the texture of overcooked pasta scares me so much, I have many memories of make undercooked pasta, that despite the complaint of people around the table, I found quite good. My husband has gotten used to what he calls my ‘crunchy’ pasta.  It took a while but now I’ve converted him too, and when he cooks pasta for himself it’s very ‘al dente’.

The problem with pasta and ceci (chickpeas) or pasta and fagioli (beans) is that it is a dish somewhere between a soup, and a pasta dish with a lot of sauce. In my personal opinion -I know that other Italians might disagree since we all have strong opinion around food and how it should be prepared- pasta and ceci should have the consistency of a thick soup. Not as watery as a Minestrone or vegetable soup for example.

I can eat leftover soup, but I can’t eat leftover soup with pasta in it, because at that point the pasta will be way more then mushy. So what I need to do is to make just the right amount of pasta, eat it all and avoid any leftovers!

This dish is so comforting that I could eat it almost every day, especially during fall and winter.

Pasta and ceci in Italy could be the equivalent of rice and beans in South America.

You can play around with herbs, but chickpea and rosemary is a combination that stands out from the crowd.

I’d discourage you from using canned chickpeas. This is a simple dish and you want to use the best quality ingredients you can get to maximize the flavor. Try to buy dried chickpeas, soak them overnight and boil it for an hour or more until tender. This way the dish will have a great flavor and you can use the chickpea water to dilute the soup.

Usually the shape of pasta most commonly used is ditalini but you can adapt it with any short pasta you have at home. I used whole wheat shells.

Serves 2-4

Ingredients :

1 carrot

1 celery stalk

1 small onion

5 -6 table spoons extra virgin olive oil + a little bit more for drizzling at the end

4-5 rosemary sprigs

2 table spoons tomato paste

2 cups cooked chickpeas

2 cups vegetable broth/chickpea water/water

salt and pepper to taste

2 cup of dried pasta (ditalini, shells or any kind of short pasta you have in the pantry)

Method :

First make your soffritto which is a must in this kind of dishes. Finely chop carrot, celery and onion and cook them in a casserole with olive oil on medium heat until translucent and soft. Toss them from time to time and avoid letting them caramelize, you want to keep them pale. Then add chopped rosemary, tomato paste, stir well and add one cup of cooked chickpeas. Add two cups of vegetable broth, or if you don’t have, the chickpea water will work too, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

In a blender puree the mixture until smooth and creamy and then add another cup of chickpeas to have some texture.  Put it back in the pot.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water and drain it 2-3 minutes before the cooking time on the package. Toss the pasta in the chickpea soup, add a little bit more chickpea liquid if it’s not runny enough and let it rest with a lid on for a couple of minutes so the pasta will soak all the flavor.

Serve in a bowl with a drizzle of the best extra virgin olive oil you have in the pantry and some freshly grated black pepper.