Pasta with chickpeas? The combination sounded strange to me, but once I tried it I was hooked. As a last minute dish, quick pasta e ceci (ceci is Italian for chickpeas or garbanzos as they are known in Spanish) just can’t be beat.
The traditional versions I’ve seen are vegetarian and use short pasta or torn pieces of lasagna noodles. I added hard salami and used linguini because I had those ingredients on hand. This is a great recipe to adapt to your own tastes. Dried red pepper flakes provide a spicy edge; use more or less of them to turn the heat up or down. Great with a tossed salad and a glass of red wine, this dish can turn a hard day at work into a relaxing evening with barely any effort at all.
I wish I had known about pasta e ceci as my kids were growing up. While other parents complained about how their kids wouldn’t try new foods, my kids were game for almost anything I served them. They ate tons of hummus, along with raw fennel and lots of other “grown-up” food. Spicy foods delighted them and I’ll bet they would have gobbled up this dish. It would have been a welcome addition to our pasta rotation, which used to lean heavily on red sauce and pesto.
Pasta with Chickpeas (Quick Pasta E Ceci)
2 large servings or 3 medium Cost – $4
- 8 ounces of linguini or spaghetti
- 5-8 ounces canned or cooked chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained – about ¾ – 1 cup. Do not use weight on a can as guidance because that includes the water in the can.
- 1 small clove of garlic, minced (about ½ teaspoon)
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons) or onion, preferably sweet or Vidalia
- ¼ cup hard salami or pancetta, cut into tiny cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup water + more from pasta water if necessary
- ⅛ teaspoon (1-2 pinches) dried red pepper flakes
- salt (preferably Kosher or sea) and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Cutting board
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoon
- 1 pot
- 1 medium-large pan
- Mince the shallot and garlic. Notice the green thread or “germ” running down the center of my clove of garlic? Although even an authority such as David Lebovitz couldn’t taste it when he used garlic in a cooked dish, that germ was easy to pull out, so I did. Chop the cubes of salami or pancetta (Italian-style bacon.) I’ve seen pancetta sold in small cubes. I cut my own hard salami (a version with Chianti that I found in a local specialty food store) by cutting ¼ – ½ inch thick slices, cutting those into strips, and then cutting the strips into cubes.
- Heat water in the pot for cooking the pasta. After the water comes to a rolling boil and you put the pasta in, heat the pan and start cooking the other ingredients.
- Put the oil in the pre-heated pan. When it is hot but not smoking, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes under medium heat. Add the salami or pancetta and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, just until it begins to sizzle.
- Add the chick peas and cook them, stirring for about 1-2 minutes to heat them up. Then sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper, add the red pepper flakes and the water, and continue to heat for 1-2 minutes. Once the added water is bubbling, mash some (more than a few but not a lot) of the chick peas with the back of the spoon, so that the sauce becomes thicker. This isn’t about precision or plating the resulting pasta for a high-end restaurant – it’s a quick dinner, a peasant-style meal that comes together without fuss. If the chick peas are done and tasty, turn the light off if the pasta isn’t yet done.
- Once the pasta is done, drain out all but about ¾ of a cup of the water, reserving that in the measuring cup that the water fro the chick peas was in before you used it. Add the pasta to the chick peas and other ingredients in the pan, and toss it. If the pasta seems dry, slowly add reserved pasta water until the pasta is loose but not soupy.
Serve quick pasta e ceci immediately in warmed bowls, with a tossed salad or a green vegetable.