Pasta and Ceci – Pasta and Chickpeas Soup
As Los Angeles finally gets some long-awaited rain and fall weather, I find myself longing for some comforting warm soup. Pasta e Ceci is the simplest and quickest to prepare soup you can imagine, still so delicious and nutritious. That is, if you don’t consider the chickpeas soaking time.
Always keep some dry chickpeas in your pantry: they stay good for months if not years, so it really is one of the basic staples of every pantry, as most kinds of dry legumes.
The magic of chickpeas is that they are cheap, always readily available, and packed with proteins, as well as vitamins, minerals and fibers: which explains why you will feel full after eating a bowl of this soup. But there is one important amino acid missing in chickpeas: methionine, which plays a role in metabolism and detoxification. And here goes the geniality of our ancestors, who without having all this essential information at hand, probably by intuition, paired the chickpeas with pasta, which has some of it. Or maybe it was just the discovery that the combined taste of those two ingredients made up for a wonderful soup?
In any case I have always been a big fan of this dish. It is vegetarian, and becomes vegan if you do not add any parmigiano cheese. Or you can also make it with chicken broth for the ultimate winter comfort dish.
There are, as always, many different versions of the same recipe. For example, feel free to choose the shape of short pasta that you like, or that you have at hand; in my family there was no doubt that it had to be broken spaghetti, maybe because it was the way to entertain the children while waiting for the chickpeas to cook.
Sometimes a couple of spoons of tomato sauce are added. I prefer the simple version. An upgrade that some enjoy is to use a vegetable broth prepared beforehand with onion, carrot, celery: this benefits the results. But for the rest it must stay the simple 5 ingredients soup that it is easy and fast to make for a weekday dinner.
For 2 portions
approximately 250 grams dry chickpeas
6-8 cups of water
3 cloves of garlic
some fresh sage, rosemary
salt and pepper
120 grams spaghetti, broken down to 1 cm length approximately
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as desired
3 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1. Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl in abundant cold water for at least 12 hours. Add a ¼ of a teaspoon of baking soda to speed the process of rehydrating them.
2. When done, rinse the chickpeas and put to boil with 6-8 cups of water, add some salt, the sauteed herbs and garlic.
3. Let it simmer for at least one hour or until very tender.
4. In a different pot, sauté the herbs and the garlic in EV Olive Oil.
5. Strain the chickpeas, keep the water/broth for the soup. Sauté all the chickpeas in the pot with the oil and the sage.
6. Remove the garlic and approximately half of chickpeas; blend it in the food processor with some of the liquid until completely pureed, set aside.
7. Add all the water/broth back into the pot with the whole chickpeas, bring it back to a rolling boil.
8. Add the broken spaghetti or short pasta to the boiling soup and let simmer for 10 minutes or until cooked. Make sure there is enough liquid left to cook the pasta, but not like when you boil pasta, just like a soup: you are not going to drain the water!
9. When the pasta is cooked, add the pureed chickpeas, mix well.
10. Drizzle with EV Olive Oil, sprinkle the parmigiano on top and serve very hot.
A Few Notes:
- You can use precooked chickpeas in a can to shorten the preparation time. Make sure that there are no preservatives and rinse the chickpeas before using. You will lose some of the flavor though compared to the other method. Use approximately 500 grams for 2 generous portions.
- When using dry chickpeas, do not skimp on soaking time: you can even keep them in the water a whole day.
- You can use chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water.
- You can add a few cherry tomatoes when sautéing the garlic, or a couple of spoons of tomato sauce.
- You can serve it with a toasted slice of sourdough bread.
- The final result is a thick soup, so make sure you towards the end that you only add water if needed!
Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.