Pasta e Ceci {Pasta with Chickpeas}

Who knew chickpeas would pair so well with pasta? America’s Test Kitchen did. They know everything about food, or so it seems. This dish has been made over and over again in our house and has become one of our staples. It’s one of the reasons we keep chickpeas, whole peeled tomatoes, and anchovies on hand. It’s a stick to your bones type meal that doesn’t take a ton of time or effort to make. As long as you prep things BEFORE you start cooking, the entire process is seamless. And yes, I’ve done it without prep and stressed myself out.

For this adaptation, I pull out my big dutch oven, because we want enough for leftovers.

Pasta e Ceci {Pasta with Chickpeas}

There are a ton of recipes out there that you can use. Some as simple as 5 ingredients others with a bit more flair for this Italian dish that seems to be made as many ways as we’ve found to make pizza. The general consensus is that all of the ways to make it taste good. The pairing of creamy chickpeas with the soupy stew-like concoction that is created by the tomatoes and the paste we create as a base before cooking is what has me hooked to this meal. If I could I would cook this weekly, and I do believe my family wouldn’t mind it one bit. The flavor EXPLODES in your mouth, and you’ll wonder why you weren’t privy to this culinary delight earlier. If you were and you haven’t shared with your friends – you’re horrid.

As with any good recipe, my inspiration came one lazy Saturday afternoon as I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. Now, I realize that there are other ways to create this dish, but when watching ATK – I love the science behind the dish and knowing why their amount of testing of the recipe happens to bring about the results that they do. Kind of like Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. I miss that show so much, and yes I know that the Reloaded versions are airing now, but I don’t have that cable channel.

I think this week will be the time that I attempt Victoria Granof’s 5 ingredient version to see just how good that one is too. Some folks puree the chickpeas to a paste, which is hummus in a way, right, but the good folks at ATK use carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and pancetta as a good meaty soffritto base for this meal and a way to add flecks of flavor through and through. I’m learning that soffritto is essentially the Italian answer to mirepoix and I’m here for it. Soffritto is a cooked down sauce while mirepoix is sauteed and still just as tasty, just not the type of tasty we want for this dish. For a flourish, we even throw in anchovies.

Overall, we know this qualifies as fine dining, emergency meals, and weekly staples. I dare you to make this and not agree with me. Not much can do that these days. Okay, that may be hyperbole, but stay with me.

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

This recipe is an adaptation from America’s Test Kitchen, but MANY variations abound. Tinker until you find one you like, and then tinker some more. 

Servings: 8 people
Author: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
  • 4 ounces pancetta cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 small carrot peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 small celery rib cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves peeled
  • 2 onions halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for serving
  • 2 anchovy fillet rinsed, patted dry, and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 4 15-ounce cans chickpeas (do not drain)
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 16 ounces 1 1/2 cups ditalini
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese grated (1/2 cup)
  1. 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.
  2. 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 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.

Try this recipe and let me know how it comes out for you.

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