Pasta and Ceci are one of Rome’s most famous dishes. It’s the only dish on the informal meal schedule on Tuesdays and Fridays. There are many different ways to prepare it, but the basic principles are consistent. A base of sauteed garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and sometimes even a little celery is seasoned with seasonings and chickpeas. Then, either water or chickpea broth and pasta are added. Some have a brothy base like soups, others blend chickpeas to make a thicker one, while others are more herbaceous with rosemary and sage. Others are lighter, while still, others are heavy in tomatoes. Victoria Granof’s version, which was a hummus-free recipe that went beyond hummus and is an excellent addition to the Single Ingredient series of cookbooks (and a cookbook that would only be created by a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef or a famous food stylist), took over the internet in the past couple of years.
You must think that this will be complicated. It is the opposite. Granof’s version is made with five ingredients. I’m sure you have them all in your pantry. It takes only 20 minutes to make, so it cannot be done just once. Unsurprisingly, this 20-minute meal has been shared on the internet by Food52 and Dinner: A Love Story.
You could argue that I shouldn’t mess with perfection: Why change something so good? I realized I had no small pasta only after reading the recipe. I did have little rings familiar to everyone who has eaten or wishes they could eat. (Me!) Spaghetti-Os was a famous pasta when I was growing up. The little Os are a formal pasta shape known as cannellini. Did I intend to reverse-engineer the canned food when I bought them? Absolutely. After seeing how quickly my kids ate a similar-looking dish (which is excellent in a thermos as a lunch, go ahead and double the amount), I’m glad I didn’t get to it sooner.
Second, I add more finish when I have some extra time. Instead of adding olive oil to the top as is customary, I like adding some extra minced garlic, rosemary leaves, and salt and pepper flakes for a minute to give it a nutty flavor, crispy finish, and dramatic sizzle.
Please note that I learned 80% of my knowledge about Roman cuisine, particularly pasta e ceci, from Rachel Roddy. Do not miss out on her Guardian blog, books, or column. But be warned; you may buy tickets to Rome within five minutes, as we did in 2013. The other 10% comes from Roman food writers who are not Rachel Roddy; the rest was learned on our trip.
Pasta with Chickpeas and Quick Pasta
Want to add a little spice? You can use the broth of freshly cooked chickpeas in place of water. This recipe will still be delicious even if all you use is water. The liquid could be flavored with a parmesan peel (but this would nullify the vegan/vegetarian label). I prefer to finish it as I have written below, but my method involves saving a small amount of oil and garlic for the very end. If you want to do it the way Granof wrote it, you will first need three garlic cloves and four tablespoons of oil. The dish is only finished with extra olive oil.
Olive oil two tablespoons
Two cloves of garlic, peeled.
Three tablespoons of tomato paste
Add more Salt to taste. One teaspoon of kosher, kosher Salt
To taste, freshly ground black pepper or red chili flakes
1 1/2 cups chickpeas cooked (from a 15-ounce can that has been drained and rinsed)
Ditalini (or other small shapes; I prefer cannellini).
Water: 2 cups (475ml) boiling (update I use tap water, not boiled) water
Olive oil: 2 to 3 tablespoons (approximately one tablespoon per serving).
Peel and finely chop one clove of garlic
Fresh rosemary minced to 1 teaspoon
Salt and red pepper flakes
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or deep saucepan until it shimmers. Stirring constantly, add two crushed cloves of garlic. Cook until they are lightly browned but still very aromatic. Add the tomato paste, Salt, and pepper, and stir them with the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas and pasta to the boiling water. Stir to remove any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pasta is fully cooked. Adjust seasoning, taste, and spoon the pasta into bowls.
Finishing oil: In a small saucepan or saucepan, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the remaining garlic clove, rosemary, and a pinch of Salt or pepper until it sizzles. Remove the pan from the heat when the garlic starts to turn color. This can be drizzled over pasta and ceci bowls.