Pasta with chickpeas is one of those dishes you could make if you had nothing. The chickpeas would have been dried and soaked overnight, the pasta would be crumbles left after cutting fresh dough, and tomatoes would be pulled from the garden. Like many old Italian peasant dishes, pasta e ceci was first made in farmhouses, then at restaurants when chefs rediscovered the cooking of their nonnas. It can still be prepared like it once was, but it’s also a quick weeknight dinner from the pantry.
Begin with a large sweet onion and after you soften it in plenty of olive oil, add garlic, crushed red pepper, anchovies, tomato paste, and rosemary. Let them heat and mellow together before you add canned chickpeas and whole tomatoes. To give the dish an appealing worn look, use a potato masher to crush some of the chickpeas to thicken the mixture. Then cook small pasta separately (use something cute like oval-shaped shells called cavatelli) and stir the pasta and some of its cooking water into the chickpeas. Sprinkle servings with olive oil, grated Parmesan, and more rosemary to make big, hearty, filling, deeply flavorful bowls.
Pasta e ceci (Pasta with chickpeas)
|3||tablespoons olive oil|
|1||sweet onion, chopped|
|Salt, to taste|
|¼||teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste|
|3||fillets anchovy, chopped|
|2||cloves garlic, chopped|
|1||tablespoon tomato paste|
|3||tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary|
|1||can (15 ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl|
|2||cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, drained|
|1||cup small pasta, such as macaroni, conchiglie or pipe rigata (shells), cavatelli (oval-shaped shells), corbata (small bow-ties), ditalini (tiny tubes)|
|1||tablespoon red wine vinegar|
|½||cup freshly grated Parmesan|
|Extra olive oil (for serving)|
1. In a large flameproof casserole over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes, or until softened. Add the red pepper, anchovies, garlic, tomato paste, and 2 tablespoons of the rosemary. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas. With a potato masher, mash down 3 or 4 times to crush some of the chickpeas and thicken the liquid. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more; set aside.
3. In a saucepan, bring the water and a generous pinch of salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the pasta is almost tender; it will cook another minute or two later.
4. Set a bowl under a colander. Drain the pasta into the colander, catching all the water. Do not rinse the pasta.
5. Tip the pasta into the chickpea mixture. Stir in 1½ cups of the pasta cooking water. Bring the chickpea mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and the mixture is hot. It should have a stew-y consistency; if necessary, add more pasta water, ¼ cup at a time. (Save the pasta water if you plan to reheat the dish; use it to thin the chilled mixture.)
6. Stir in the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or red pepper, if you like. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with olive oil, the remaining Parmesan, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rosemary. Sheryl Julian