What’s your favorite Italian dish? That’s one of the questions I’m asked most often when visiting family and friends back in America. When I say pasta with chickpeas, the response is usually one of surprise or interest. I’ve always loved chickpeas, but I had never enjoyed them cooked in such a simple and lovely way until I had pasta with chickpeas for the first time in Italy. This is true cucina povera, recipes made traditional by poor peasants in Italy. Many of these recipes, like pasta e ceci, are home recipes, and you’ll not likely find them on the tables of fancy restaurants. All of this makes pasta with chickpeas a perfect dish to make at home – it’s simple and the ingredients are extremely inexpensive. And it’s healthy, too!
The recipe below is from my husband’s sister in Ravello. She’s been my inspiration and shared countless recipes and cooking tips over the past years, helping to make my dive into southern Italian cooking fun … and very tasty. She’s also been my teacher lately in learning to use a pentola a pressione, or pressure cooker, which dramatically reduces the cooking time in this recipe with chickpeas. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, check out Eleonora’s recipe for Mamma’s Pasta e Ceci on Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino or Cherrye’s quick recipe for Lagane e Ceci on My Bella Vita. Happy cooking!
~ Pasta e Ceci ~
For 2 (if you’re really hungry) or 3 (if you feel like sharing)
150 grams dried chickpeas
5 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
Italian flat leaf parsley
150 grams of pasta (short pasta like fusilli, penne or a mix works great)
1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl or pot. They’ll get much bigger, so make sure there is plenty of water.
2. Drain chickpeas before beginning. Combine the chickpeas, 5 cups water and a small amount (1/8 teaspoon or less) in your pressure cooker.
3. Close pressure cooker and place over high heat. From first whistle, lower heat to minimum and cook for about an hour.
4. Open pressure cooker carefully according to its instructions. Add garlic, olive oil, salt and parsley and bring to a boil. Cook about 5 minutes, or longer if the chickpeas need to cook a little more.
Tip: Some cooks prefer to cook the pasta in a separate pot and then join with the chickpeas, while others cook the pasta directly in the chickpeas to pull as much flavor into the pasta as possible. The amount of water used in this recipe is enough to cook the pasta directly in the chickpeas, which is my favorite way.
5. Add the pasta directly to the chickpeas and monitor the heat level to keep the mixture bubbling gently. Follow the pasta cooking time suggested on the package to cook al dente. Stir frequently, especially toward the end of the cooking time to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom. I like to use a wooden spoon to squish some of the chickpeas while stirring to create a nice creamy texture.
Tip: My favorite pasta for this recipe is called Pantacce Toscane, a flat pasta with wavy edges around the small pieces. They make me think of miniature magic flying carpets, and are truly magical in this recipe!
6. When pasta is cooked and the consistency has thickened, turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top and additional parsley if desired.
I hope you’ll enjoy this traditional, simple and healthy Italian classic in your home.