Pasta e ceci

I was convinced I had already posted about pasta e ceci, convinced.

I haven’t.

So here it is.

pasta ceci 4

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.

pasta ceci 2

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 cecipasta 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.

ditalini 2

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 ceci at table

Pasta e ceci

serves 4

  • 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..

sept 2009

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……



Filed under Beans and pulses, food, pasta and rice, soup

57 responses to “Pasta e ceci

  1. Oh yum. This looks and sounds delicious, one to make while the weather is still a little temperamental…

  2. I had no idea a soup like this was a Friday tradition.

    I’m putting some chickpeas on to soak right now – really.

  3. Betta

    …and a good “vino rosso” to go with it 😉

  4. Oh yuum yum, I can just imagine sopping that up with a good rosemary batard.

  5. I love Testaccio because there aren’t any tourists. It’s very authentic. And I love pasta ceci because it’s so good, and reminds me of Rome. A smidge of guanciale in the soffrito doesn’t hurt.

    If you have a pressure cooker, the soaking becomes less important. About 30 minutes and they’re ready. I eat so many more beans now that I have one.

  6. This sounds so satisfying. I adore chickpeas, and I love your Steve Buscemi analogy!

  7. Rachel!

    I spent this afternoon simmering a jolly little casserole of chickpeas with no particular dish for their eventual use in mind. Marvellous. Absolutely seduced by the method.

    Oh, Mr Buscemi…what a wonderfully understated man he is. Shall report back.

  8. “the Steve Buscemi of soups” also made me laugh! Thanks for highlighting a soup that I’ve wondered about but not with much excitement. Now I think I must make this, this weekend!

  9. About to dive into a bowl – it’s perfection.

    Will be made again and again. (And again) Thank you, and very much I must add, for getting around to posting.

  10. i am still so totally with you. this recipe is timely and perfect and i am making it this weekend for sure. so thank you thank you… because there is a reason i NEED to make it. or that has prompted me to make it… and if i could pick up the phone and call you i would rather than type and type. but it involves my puppy – who has taken to grabbing packages of beans from my kitchen. yes – too long to type… nevermind.

    anyway, i love everything about this dish. and i’ve never had it before. and we love chickpeas around here. and pasta. and soup. and bread and cheese. see? i need to know this!

  11. unbelievably delicious
    one of the better things i’ve eaten in awhile and i eat a lot of very good food

    many thanks…

  12. arugulove

    I just discovered this blog – love it! And this soup looks wonderful. Can’t wait to try it out.

  13. Just wanted to let you know I finally got to making this last night and we both very much enjoyed it. I used a variety of chickpeas from Umbria.

    • rachel

      thankyou for letting me know and I am happy you enjoyed it as thats what really matters
      isn’t it x

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  15. Thank you for this Rachel! It was beautiful. 🙂

  16. Hi Rachel, just made this last week – it was fabulous, thanks so much for sharing! Love your blog, btw.

  17. Chrissy


    Made this soup tonight….it is delicious. A new favorite of mine! Thanks so much for the recipe.

    Your blog is wonderful, love the layout, writing and incredible food.

    • rachel

      I am so glad you made it and even more glad you really liked it.
      Thankyou for your message your comment was lovely after a rather grim day….

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  20. This sounds like it would warm me straight through on a cold day. In fact, there’s a chill in the air today. Autumn is on the horizon. I must make this soup. I also must sop up every bit that clings to the side of the bowl with a healthy piece of bread…and then I’ll have more.

  21. martyseattle

    You’ve made me my wife’s hero with this recipe. Yum, Yum, and did I mention Yum? Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

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  24. makingromaroma

    I have been eyeing this dish for weeks and finally made it last night. It was just wonderful. I really appreciate how everything you post is tried and true. I’ve probably made 6 of your recipes and they always turn out beautifully. Your Ragu is next!

    • rachel

      What a nice message, I feel very happy and it’s
      nice to know things work – really nice.
      Oh yes, the ragu, it is the wonderful Rowley leigh’s recipe
      happy cooking to you.

  25. I finally got round to making this last night too. It’s really good, while being relatively low effort.

    This one will go onto our ‘regulars’ list, definitely

  26. Your pasta e ceci has become a near-weekly feature on our table this winter. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  29. Val

    My original intention was to make Pasta e Fagioli, but then I went to buy the necessary ingredients and decided that seeing as I’m in Israel I really should make good use of all the chickpeas available. So I went ahead and made your wonderful Pasta e ceci.

    Devoured. Not a drop left. That was how successful it was and I wasn’t the only one who polished it off, my husband absolutely loved it. I think its the parmesan rind that makes this so outstanding.

    Pasta e Fagioli is next in line but there’s no doubt that this will make a weekly appearance on our dinner table. Thanks.

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  33. Sergio Simonetto

    I think pasta e ceci is an all seasons plate: too good to wait for it until it gets cold!!!!
    thanks a million,

    Sergio Simonetto

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  35. johanna

    thank you for another great recipe! (kind of bastardized it by using fregola sarda instead of tube pasta since that’s all we had.) but it worked really well .

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  37. Jess

    This recipe is wonderful Rachel! Pasta e ceci has been my dinner (and breakfast) for most of this week. Thank you for sharing.

  38. Katrina

    I just found your blog recently and I love it!! This looks amazing and I’d love to make it tonight… I don’t have any parmesan rinds in the house (I buy pre grated because I’m lazy and just now starting to cook up like a fiend). I noticed a lot of your recipes call for it. What happens when a girl doesn’t have a parmesan rind? Can I add in a dash of parmesan instead?

    Thanks for the great recipes!

    • rachel

      Hi Katrina, No rind – no problem just leave it out (it isn’t essential, just a flavour enhancer. Some parmesan on top when serving is always nice. I almost almost always add a rind to soup, it is a good reason to buy pieces of parmesan! Maybe now is the time for you to start! It is lovely to have you reading along. R

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  43. Just seen this in the Guardians Cook Supplement (22.3.14) – looks wonderful – will be cooking it this week

  44. Jeanne

    This is such a fantastic recipe, so specific and incisive. Ours turns out so well, every time. And our kids love it (until they hit 5 or so, when they get totally lame about food, but I hear they get over it). Thank you for this (and for your pasta e broccoli, which is even more a hit with the children).

  45. rosemary crosland

    Trying this today for first time – already gone wrong by blending all chickpeas but never mind, still tastes good. Clementine cake is amazing, new favourite cake.
    How do you pronounce ‘ceci’? Italian ‘c’s always confusing, specially 2 in same word!
    Love the blog, Rachel. Situations so very relatable to and recipes so very makeable (apart from not having wonderful, fresh, seasonal, local Italian ingredients).

  46. Hello! First of all thank you for posting this recipe. I’ve made it many times and it’s now a recipe I come back to, searching out your blog again each time, because I want to make sure I get it right. I have one question- When you soak the beans, do you drain them after, or do you use the same water to cook them in? On the bag it says to drain and rinse them, but the internet seems to have mixed views about draining off that water and starting new. Thoughts? 🙂

    Thank you again!

    • rachel

      hello and sorry to take so long to answer. You drain the soaking water away, and rinse then cover with clean water to cook. Rx

  47. Flora

    Hi Rachel. We made your pasta e ceci recipe from the guardian (slow cook version). It was delicious but the ceci were a bit mealy, even though we cooked them for a long time. Do you think it’s the quality of the dried chickpeas? Also lid on or off? Thank you!

    • rachel

      Hell there, so glad you tried , and I am always sorry to hear about mealy things. It could well be the age of the chickpeas, Soemtimes bags of dried ones are very old. I always assumed they would last for years, which they do, but in truth cp’s should be consumed within a year. Check the date. I have lid off. Rx

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