From Rome with Love: Pasta e Ceci. It is a classic Roman fare, one that you still see on restaurant menus and family tables. Chickpeas, a soffritto of onion, carrot and celery, plus the intense fragrance of garlic and rosemary are the main ingredients of this delectable dish.
Song of the day: I know I used it already, but the song ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ by Morcheeba always gets me going. If you want a real taste of Rome, listen to one of Rome’s iconic singer, Gabriella Ferri, with ‘Chitarra Romana’.
Patience is not my strongest point. I think I’ve said that somewhere, already. However, some things are worth the wait.
Pasta e ceci
Pasta e Ceci, the way I like and remember, starts with dried chickpeas. They are first rinsed in water, then soaked for 24 hours, changing the water twice is recommended. This is because the chickpea cooking water, a bit cloudy and oh so flavorful, will be the broth in where your pasta is going to cook.
Why not taking the shortcut with chickpeas in a can? Oh, I do it, sometimes, when the time is tight, and then I remember why I love using the dried chickpeas so much. Because I miss the ‘bite’, the al dente texture of the dried chickpeas, and the water the chickpeas were cooked in which provides the best broth in which to cook some pasta.
Pasta e Ceci is Rome’s iconic dish, no less than Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe. It dates back some 2.000 years and has few variations, like most Italian regional recipes. If you step into any Roman trattoria or osteria, mostly on Fridays, its designated day, you will probably find pasta e ceci. The fragrance of garlic and rosemary, combined with the mirepoix and bay leaf, will tantalize your nostrils, giving Pasta e Ceci its unmistakable taste.
Pasta e Ceci: is it Pasta and Chickpeas or more Chickpea Soup?
Good question. I would say it is a thick soup, kind of like Pasta e Fagioli, dotted with whole chickpeas and scented with rosemary. It is definitely not pasta and chickpeas in the sense that you do not cook the pasta separately and then you add it to the chickpeas. No no (see my index finger moving sideways, lol). The two cook together in a wonderful embrace.
Pasta e Ceci can be brothy or creamy; it can be red if you add the tomato; it can include anchovy or potato; the chickpeas can be soaked by you or added from a tin, kept whole, or pureed (half); the pasta can be ditalini or cannolicchi (which I usually use), maltagliati, or broken tagliatelle. It is a dish that invites improvisation and tweaking according to taste. My recipe turns out different each time I make it. Sometimes I puree half of the chickpeas if I want it more creamy; sometimes I add the potato, and it makes a nice thick, starchy broth; sometimes I don’t use the carrot, only onion and celery; most times I don’t use the tomato and I make it white. A note on the tomato: even if using, the tomato has to be small and give just a little blush of color to the dish. No rich tomato sauce is used in the traditional Pasta e Ceci from Rome.
Pasta e Ceci warms you up from the inside out
Pasta e Ceci is my all time favorite soup (see, I call it soup), comforting and hearty. It is the kind of dish that turns my world right if I had a bad day, or I got the chills or felt down and melancholy. It is able to warm up my body and heart.
- It has plenty of proteins, which in my case are always a struggle to add, and
- lots of fiber
- It is vegan, not to mention
- budget friendly and
- very satisfying.
Step back in time and into a Roman trattoria with this classic Pasta e Ceci. Hope it is able to warm up your body and soul in these cold, wintry days.
From Rome, with love.
From Rome with Love: Pasta e Ceci. It is a classic Roman fare, one that you still see on restaurant menus and family tables. Chickpeas, a soffritto of onion carrot and celery, plus the intense fragrance of garlic and rosemary are the main ingredients of this delectable dish.
- 150 g (2/3 cup) dried chickpeas (they will become 350 g – 2 cups soaked chickpeas)
- 2 liters of cold water + more if necessary
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- 1 Tbsp e.v.o. oil
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 celery stalk
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 small tomato on the vine (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 60 g ditalini pasta, lisci or rigati (with ridges)
- Soak the chickpeas in plenty of cold water for 24 hours, after that, drain and wash under cold running water and put in a terracotta cotta pot with 2 liters of water, the garlic clove, and the rosemary sprig.
- Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat, and simmer for 1½ – 2 hours or until the chickpeas are tender (mine took almost 3 hours). Keep in mind you need enough water to cook the pasta in, after, so top up with more water if necessary. Take out the rosemary sprig and garlic.
- At this point, you can puree part of the chickpeas, to get a creamier consistency. I pureed 1/4 of the chickpeas in a mixer with a touch of their cooking water. Then I put the puree back into the pot.
- While the chickpeas are cooking, mince the onion, carrot, and celery. You could also blend them in a food processor. Mince the tomato (if using).
- In a saute pan, heat the olive oil, add the mirepoix, the bay leaf, the minced tomato. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 -6 minutes. Add it to the pot with the chickpeas and stir.
- Check if there is enough water if not, top it up. Adjust with salt. Bring it to a boil, add the pasta and cook, stirring every now and then, until the pasta is al dente and the water has reduced (keep in mind that it will continue cooking and thickening when turned off).
- Let rest for a few minutes, then serve with a grinding of black pepper and a little more olive oil poured over the top.
If using dried chickpeas you need to start planning your Pasta e Ceci 24 hours prior, letting them soak in water and changing the water twice.
If using chickpeas in a can, use good quality, possibly organic, chickpeas and make a vegetable broth.