Pasta e ceci is a rustic soup of chickpeas and pasta from Tuscany. It is a simple and sustaining dish that is easy to prepare and really very good. You need to remember to soak the chickpeas overnight as tinned ones won’t work in this recipe. The liquid from cooking the chickpeas forms the stock for the soup.
I came across this soup recipe in a charming book lent to me by a friend, Karen Ramage, The Tuscan Year, Life and Food in an Italian Valley by Elizabeth Romer, 1984. You can buy this out of print book online. I have adapted the recipe and make it often for my family. It is my granddaughter Astrid’s favourite meal.
It is best to cook the pasta in the soup close to serving time as it swells on standing. Alternatively cook the pasta separately, then toss in a little olive oil and add to the soup as you need it. The same applies if freezing the soup.
For a well-balanced and nutritious meal, serve a salad either before or after the pasta e ceci. A refreshing shredded rocket and grated carrot salad dressed with red-wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil is a good choice.
Note Dried chickpeas (or beans) can be quick-soaked by bringing them to the boil in plenty of water, turn off the heat and leave them to soak for a couple of hours.
Photography by Sophie Harper
- 250g (generous cup) chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 6 to 7 cups water
- 1 stick of celery including leaves
- 2 bay leaves and 1 sprig rosemary, tied together
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 vegetable stock cubes (optional)
- 2 extra sprigs of rosemary, (2 tsp finely chopped)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 150g tagliatelle, broken into 5-7cm lengths or small tubular pasta (ditalini)
- 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- parmesan cheese (optional)
- Drain the chickpeas and cook in six cups of fresh water (no salt) with the celery, bay leaves and a rosemary sprig for about an hour, or until tender. Skim when it first comes to the boil and remove any chickpea skins that float to the surface. Add salt to the pot when the chickpeas are cooked. The cooking water will become the stock for the soup.
- Remove and discard the celery, bay leaves and rosemary sprig. Scoop out about a cup of the chickpeas with some of the cooking water and puree; then return to the soup pot. Now add a good dash of olive oil and the stock cubes (if using).
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan and gently fry the garlic and chopped rosemary for a few moments, then add the tomato paste and stir-fry briefly.
- Tip this mixture into the soup. Add more water as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer altogether for 15 to 20 minutes. The soup can be prepared ahead to this stage.
- About 15 minutes before you plan to serve the soup, bring it to a gentle boil and add the pasta. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time until the pasta is just cooked.
- Serve the hot soup pronto in warmed bowls with a little olive oil and chopped parsley on top. Offer grated parmesan cheese, although you may prefer it without.
Add a peeled, deseeded and chopped tomato to fry with the garlic and rosemary to add freshness to the soup. You can also include a couple of shredded leaves of silverbeet or cavolo nero added towards the end of cooking time.