Pasta e ceci is a creamy soup of peasant origin made with simple and affordable ingredients: boiled chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, soffritto, rosemary, short pasta like ditalini and vegetable broth.
It’s a nutritious and delicious traditional Italian recipe, ideal for cold, winter days.
There is a trick to making a creamy, thick and flavorful pasta e ceci, which I will explain later. It involves a couple of easy steps that my grandmother taught me when I was snooping around when she was cooking chickpea and pasta soup for us.
The pasta and chickpea recipe has countless regional versions. The small differences mainly concern the more or less brothy consistency, the presence or absence of tomato, and the size of pasta used.
This is the classic version, the recipe for creamy pasta e ceci “in bianco,” that is, without tomato, with short pasta (ditaloni) and flavored with rosemary.
If you are in the mood for a soup that embodies simple ingredients with surprising flavor, Italian Pasta e Ceci is the one for you!
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- Prep Time: 15 Min (if using dry chickpeas consider about 10 hours of soaking)
- Cook Time: 40 Min (if using dry chickpeas consider about 3 hours of cooking)
- Servings: 6
- 200 g (7 oz) of ditaloni or short pasta of your choice (see the paragraph below for the best type of pasta)
- 700 g (1 1/2 pound) COOKED chickpeas, that is about 300 g (~3/4 pound) of dried chickpeas or 2 cans of canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped
- 2 sprig of rosemary
- 1 1/2 liters (6 1/3 cups) of warm vegetable broth
- fine salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 50 g (4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil
How to Make Creamy Pasta e Ceci: Instructions
BEFORE YOU START!
DRIED CHICKPEAS – If you use dried chickpeas, remember to soak them for about 10 hours. Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl with plenty of water. Let them soak overnight. Then drain them, put them in a pot with about two liters of lightly salted water, bring to a boil and cook with a lid on low heat for about 3 hours, or until tender.
VEGETABLE BROTH – To prepare the pasta and chickpeas you will need about 1 1/2 liters (6 1/3 cups) of vegetable broth. You can follow our homemade vegetable broth recipe with tips and suggestions.
Step 1) – To make a creamy pasta with chickpeas, first chop the onion, celery and carrot very finely.
Then put the vegetables in a large pot, add garlic and sauté in extra virgin olive oil over very low heat.
PLEASE NOTE: In Italy people cook pasta and chickpeas in terracotta casserole. However, a thick-bottomed steel pot is also fine.
Step 2) – When the onion has become transparent, add the boiled chickpeas and a pinch of fine salt (I used canned chickpeas already boiled, drained of their water and rinsed).
Stir and then completely cover the chickpeas with the hot vegetable broth.
Step 3) – Add a sprig of rosemary, cover with a lid – but leave a small gap – and cook over a gentle heat for about 20 minutes. Add a little hot broth from time to time if needed.
Step 4) – After the cooking time has elapsed, remove the garlic and rosemary, which have already released their aroma.
Then scoop out with a skimmer about 1/2 of the chickpeas along with some of the broth from the soup.
Step 5) – Place them in the glass of an immersion blender. Blend until smooth.
Step 6) – Now pour the chickpea cream into the pot and stir the soup well; it will become creamy right away.
Step 7) – Bring the chickpea soup back to a boil and add the pasta, taking care to stir often.
PLEASE NOTE: While cooking, if you see that the soup is shrinking too much, you can add a little hot water or broth, but a little at a time so as not to thin the soup too much.
When the pasta is cooked but still al dente (I used ditaloni, which have about 10 minutes of cooking time), turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let the pasta and chickpeas rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
Serve the pasta and chickpeas garnished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and, if you like, freshly ground black pepper.
How to Store Pasta e Ceci
You can store pasta e ceci in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one day. Cooked pasta would become too mushy, so don’t exceed this time.
Cooking the pasta directly in the soup makes the dish creamier and more flavorful. However, if you need to start the preparation ahead of time, you can make the recipe without adding the pasta. This way, you can make the chickpea soup a few days in advance.
Then you can either cook the pasta in water and add it to the chickpea soup at the time of serving, or reheat the soup, add a little water, and then add the pasta to cook.
Italian Pasta and Chickpeas: Some Tips and Variations
With this pasta and chickpea recipe you get a rather thick soup. Depending on taste, the pasta and chickpea soup or made more desa or more brothy, to have a classic first course.
- GUANCIALE: This creamy pasta e ceci recipe is also suitable for vegetarians. But if you want an even tastier and richer dish, you can add a piece of guanciale or lard to the soffritto.
- PARMIGIANO: If you like, you can serve pasta e ceci garnished with a little grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
- TOMATO: There are also versions of pasta e ceci with tomato. For example, in Tuscany and Sicily people prefer the “red” version (see below the paragraph for regional variations). So, if you are a tomato lover, you can add 150 g (2/3 cup) of tomato passata to the soup. Or a tablespoon of tomato paste. You will have a more colorful and intensely flavored dish. I personally prefer the classic version, which brings out more of the delicate flavor of the chickpeas.
What Pasta is Best for Pasta e Ceci?
To make creamy pasta e ceci generally use short pasta.
You can use the short pasta you prefer: small format like tubetti or ditalini , but also medium format like casarecce, sedani rigati, pipe, lumachelle or ditaloni. Some regional variants also use mixed formats or long pasta broken by hand.
However, the format most commonly used in Italian families for this recipe is Ditalini. Small Ditalini for more brothy soup, or slightly larger Ditaloni for thicker, creamier versions like the one I have shown you.
The important thing is that it’s good quality pasta, preferably durum wheat, and that it holds up well to cooking.
Pasta e Ceci: Regional Variations
Creamy, nutritious and hearty: pasta e ceci is the comfort food that conquers all, from the north to the south of Italy. On the other hand, this recipe is a traditional peasant dish: it was born to be satisfying, nutritious and delicious.
As much as everyone from North to South Italy can recognize the goodness of the pasta-chickpea combination, the preparation of pasta e ceci is an art and each region has its own little masterpiece. Region you go, pasta and chickpeas you find. Let’s look at the most important ones!
- TUSCANY: Their pasta e ceci is rather brothy. They use peeled tomatoes, and a very special pasta shape: egg tagliatelle. They serve it with raw oil, grated cheese, fresh pepper.
- LAZIO: Roman pasta e ceci introduces a special ingredient: anchovies in oil. It’s a simple version that differs little from the recipe I gave you. In the soffritto they dissolve the anchovies and use mainly Ditalini for the pasta.
- CAMPANIA: Neapolitan pasta e ceci is thick and creamy white. They often add a few cherry tomatoes to the soffritto, just for an extra touch of flavor. At the end of cooking, they complete it with chili pepper and chopped parsley. The pasta used is called “lagane” or “pasta mista”, which is made by mixing different types of pasta. “Lagane” is a durum wheat pasta similar to tagliatelle but short, about 10 cm (4 inches).
- PUGLIA: From Puglia, a variation that incorporates one of the most flavorful seafood ingredients: mussels. The cooking water of the seafood, together with the starch released by the pasta and the flavor of the chickpeas, make this dish an authentic delicacy! Traditionally, it’s served with cavatelli, but you can use whatever short pasta you prefer. Another tip: cook the chickpeas in the water from the mussels that have been properly filtered. The mussels, on the other hand, should be added at the last moment. Finally, chili pepper, round of olive oil and bring to the table.
- SICILY: Sicilian pasta e ceci is thick and creamy, involves the use of tomato passata and also adds anchovies in oil to the soffritto. Also in Sicily they use mainly short pasta and in particular tubetti or ditalini.