I was convinced I had already posted about pasta e ceci, convinced.
So here it is.
This is our lunch at least once a week, a least.
A recipe as comfortable and beloved as my kitchen dr scholls, shoes which and I quote ‘are true legends in footwear for their simple style and legendary comfort,’ forget the footwear bit and the same can be said about pasta e ceci. It is one of Vincenzo’s favorites – he generally mummers buona after every mouthful- and one of the most deliciously frugal and honest platefuls I know. There is nothing clever or tricky about pasta e ceci, it is what it is, pasta and chickpeas, or more precisely pasta in a thick, creamy chickpea soup dotted with more whole chickpeas scented with rosemary.
Pasta ceci is a Roman classic traditionally served on Fridays before the baccalà. If you wander the streets of Testaccio – my adopted quarter and one, which to my london eyes, seems to hark from another decade – on a Friday morning you might well catch the curling scent of numerous pans of chickpeas simmering away. If you step into any Roman trattoria or osteria on Fridays, you will probably find pasta e ceci chalked up on the board, it’s scent, tantalisingly drifting to your table from the generally rowdy kitchen alongside (if you are really lucky) some trattoriaesque blaspheming.
I consider myself quite devoted to soup, but I had never eaten such delightfully beany, hearty pasta or bread enriched soups so regularly until I came to Italy, they have become a cornerstone of my diet and the savior of my delicate purse-strings. In essence, this family of full bodied soups, pasta e ceci, pasta e fagioli or white bean soup, are purees of beans with just enough oil and the trinity of onion, carrot and celery to help the beans express themselves fortified with pasta or bread, dribbled with raw oil and maybe topped with some Parmesan. STOP.
Every region and corner of Italy has a version of this kind of soup, a true everyman soup, the simplest soup, which transcends class and season, a soup to nourish and sustain all, the Steve Buscemi of soups, a bit of a legend, oh so low key you take him for granted, but love him so much more than all the fancy pants hogging the limelight.
The only tricky part of making pasta e ceci is remembering to soak the chickpeas, which if you are me, can be quite tricky, but is most satisfying when you have the foresight. Then you need to remember to cook them, a gentle simmer for at least a couple of hours while you twiddle your morning away reading every bodies latest posts. You can use tinned chickpeas but then you will miss the water the chickpeas were cooked in which provides a great stock with which to make your soup. Once the soaking and bean cooking is over it’s all very easy, you are basically making a soup and then cooking some pasta in it……..
You prepare your soffrito of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery, sauteing them gently and slowly in oil until soft and floppy and translucent. Then you add a squeeze of tomato concentrate and a sprig of rosemary, stir, and then 2/3 of your cooked chickpeas. You stir again and then cover everything with stock or water, throw in a Parmesan rind. bring the pan to a happy boil, reduce to a simmer and then leave the pan to bubble away gently for about 20 minutes.
Now, remove the rind and sprig of rosemary and then pass everything through the mouli or give it a blast with the hand blender to create a smooth gloopy soup. Now you add the rest of the cooked chickpeas.
Now you have two choices (I am sure Italian purists might quibble at this but fortunately they are not reading, they are busy quibbling) you can either add some more water or stock to the soup, bring it to the boil and cook your pasta directly in the soup or, you can cook your pasta separately in some fast boiling salted water and then add it to the soup, let things rest for about 5 minutes and the serve.
If I am using fresh pasta which cooks quickly, I cook it in the soup in which case some attentive stirring is in order or the pasta adheres itself to the bottom of the pan. If, like today, I am using dried pasta – this ditalini is prefect – I cook it separately and then add it to the soup. I probably prefer the separate cooking as you don’t have to worry about adding more liquid or sticking problems.
Sorry, I said this was simple and yet I seem to be making it all terribly complicated when it just isn’t.
Are you still with me ?
You need to let the soup rest for a few minutes before you serve it, if things are too hot, the flavours are impossible to find.
Pasta e ceci
- 250g dried chickpeas soaked overnight and then simmered for 2 hours until tender or 450g tinned chickpeas
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- medium carrot peeled and finely diced
- stick of celery finely diced
- mild onion peeled and finely diced
- 2 tbsp tomato concentrate
- small sprig of rosemary
- 500ml vegetable or chicken stock or water the chickpeas were cooked in with more plain water added to make up the 500ml if necessary.
- optional – 500ml extra water or stock for if you cook the pasta in the soup.
- Parmesan rind
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 225g small dried tubular pasta
- your nicest oil for on top
Prepare your soffrito of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery, sauteing them gently and slowly in the oil in a large heavy based pan until soft and floppy and translucent.
Then you add the tomato concentrate and a sprig of rosemary, stir, and then add 2/3 of your cooked chickpeas.
Stir again and then cover everything with stock or water, throw in a Parmesan rind. Bring the pan to a happy boil, reduce to a simmer and then leave the pan to bubble away gently for about 20 minutes.
Now remove the rind and rosemary and pass everything through the mouli or give it a blast with the hand blender to create a smooth gloopy soup.
Now you add the rest of the cooked chickpeas and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Now the two choices
1. you can either add some more water or stock to the soup, bring it to the boil and cook your pasta directly in the soup
2. you can cook your pasta separately in some fast boiling salted water and then add it to the soup, then let things rest for about 5 minutes so the flavours mingle. Serve dribbled with more extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated Parmesan..
ok I am a little embarrassed, when I first published this post it was entitled pasta ceci which translates as pasta chickpeas when the correct name should be pasta e ceci as in pasta and chickpeas…that pesky e you see, it makes all the difference and I missed it out. Vincenzo is horrified by my mistake (especially that he didn’t notice it sooner) and has demanded I rectify it immediately, he is a pedantic type. He says it is as bad as saying fish chips instead of fish and chips…… Anyway I am sorry for my flawed Italian especially to lovely Claudia who shared the pasta e ceci love further and wider than I ever could……