Pasta e Ceci

We were watching America’s Test Kitchen the other night when they made a Pasta e Ceci – Pasta and Chickpeas.

We tend to watch the show and mock them because they can take the simplest recipe and overly-complicate and radically change it to the point that it doesn’t even closely resemble the dish they started with. These are the people who used cottage cheese in their lasagne because ricotta had no flavor


So, it was quite the surprise when they came up with a pasta e ceci recipe that actually sounded good! It’s a dish Victor hasn’t made in years – so, today, he headed to the kitchen to rectify that!

Pasta e Ceci is a really classic Roman dish – with as many variations as there are Romans – and non-Romans – to cook it. At it’s heart, it’s a simple dish of chick peas, pasta, and tomatoes. A lot of tomatoes, a few tomatoes. Beans and pasta cooked in the pot, beans and pasta cooked separately and added in. Some of the beans mashed, none of the beans mashed. Little pasta, big pasta. Short pasta, long pasta.

You get the idea – it’s a dish that you make and however you make it – it’s right.

Victor took the America’s Test Kitchen concept and played with it. He used fresh garbanzo beans and cooked them in the broth. Used our home-grown oregano in place of rosemary. Added homemade tomato sauce. Lots of crushed red pepper flakes.

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

  • 2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (I used 1 can of diced tomatoes – undrained – and a 16-ounce jar of our homemade tomato sauce)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes – or more – to taste (I used more)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary – I substituted our Oregano and used approx. 1 tbs.
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (do not drain) – I used dried but canned is probably just as good and easier.
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) ditalini
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

Process pancetta in food processor until ground to paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add carrot, celery, and garlic and pulse until finely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses. Add onion and pulse until onion is cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces, 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer pancetta mixture to large Dutch oven. Pulse tomatoes in now-empty food processor until coarsely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses. Set aside.

Add oil to pancetta mixture in Dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fond begins to form on bottom of pot, about 5 minutes. Add anchovy, pepper flakes, and rosemary/oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas and their liquid, water, and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Stir in lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve, passing Parmesan and extra oil separately.

And it came out great! It was rich, filling, flavorful, and satisfying.

It made a big pot so we’re set for lunches for a few days, too. The dinner that keeps on giving!

That definitely helps because we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving and our annual Decorate the House From Top To Bottom On The Day After Thanksgiving Celebration. We’re going for Thanksgiving, this year, but we still need to make a couple of things and cook a turkey for ourselves. We’re also switching things up a bit this year, so we’ve already been busy cleaning things that don’t get cleaned very often in preparation for everything in the house to be moved. Half the house needs to get packed away so the Christmas Decorations have a place to go.

Since this is the first year I haven’t had to deal with frantic customers leading up to the big day, I’m really looking forward to it!

Retirement is good.