Pasta E Ceci (or hair shirt vs chiffon blouse)

I don’t want you to think that I’m going to be the sort of girl who cooks up the culinary equivalent of a Hair Shirt in the pursuit of economy. Lentil bakes, tuna casseroles and other endurance foods will not be making an appearance here. Not a chance. I prefer to think of the food I cook as the culinary equivalent of the recent Top Shop ruffle necked, nude chiffon blouse with directional shoulder pads; delicious yet really quite low-budget.

So please do bear that in mind while I’m sharing this recipe for Pasta With Chickpeas.
I know. It does sound like a carb-fuelled horror from a 1980s student cookbook but it’s actually pretty authentically Italian. Anna Del Conte includes a recipe for this in her lovely book “Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes” and Pasta E Ceci (which is already sounding yummier isn’t it?) is also included in Jamie’s Italy. Anna uses tomatoes in hers and Jamie’s is more of a soup than a pasta with sauce. In the spirit of frugality I’ve improvised slightly using bits and bobs I had in the fridge that were on their way out. One thing all the recipes have in common is quite a lot of rosemary which makes it feel wintery and hearty. I’ve got a bit of an unnatural obsession with pecorino so I’ve served mine with a a really good one – but just using it at the end – a bit like a seasoning – so you don’t need much.
Anyway, have a go, I promise it’s delicious – it’s really savoury and comforting and not in any way hair-shirty.

Pasta with chickpeas – serves 2

  • About 3 handfuls of chickpeas (I like to use dried and soaked chickpeas if they are going to be the main event in the dish, like in this, but you could definitely just use a tin of them).
  • 2 onions.
  • 2 sticks of celery.
  • 3 cloves of garlic.
  • 1 chilli (not strictly authentic but I think everything is improved but a little bit of chilli).
  • I had a red pepper in the fridge that needed using so I blackened, peeled, chopped and added it.
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, spikes removed, chopped and thrown in.
  • Enough chicken stock to cover the chickpeas.
  • Enough pasta (small shapes ideally) for 2.
  • Some good olive oil.
  • Chunk of pecorino.
Sweat off the onions, garlic, chilli and celery on a low heat until soft but not coloured. Add the rosemary and peppers and cook off for a few minutes stirring from time to time. Then add in your chickpeas and cover with hot stock. People say you should add a pinch or bicarbonate of soda to the mix if the chickpeas were the dried sort. I’ve never really got to the bottom of why this is helpful and have consequently never purchased any bicarbonate of soda. But if you know, and it does help, then go for it.
Anyway, cook over a low heat for a good 2 hours, topping up with water if it gets a bit dry. I then mash it up a little with a potato masher (or a whiz with the handheld blender) to give a rough and gloopy consistency that will coat the pasta. Ah yes, the pasta. Just boil up enough pasta for 2 – undercooking a little as it will continue to cook in the sauce. I think purists would recommend ditalini or another one of the small pasta shapes but I’ve used some shells here and it was lovely. Add the pasta into the sauce and mix adding a splash of really good olive oil. Serve in some nice deep bowls with extra olive oil and pecorino sprinkled (dredged?) generously.

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