Pasta e ceci is a soup that is near and dear to my heart.
It is for a few reasons.
First, it was the soup I remember my mom (and my Nonna) making all the time when I was a kid. So it’s pretty nostalgic for me.
But the bigger reason that I love it so much is, as an adult, I realized it’s such a life saver when you need a “belly warming” dish in a few minutes made with things you probably already have hanging out in your kitchen.
Pasta e ceci literally means pasta with chickpeas, and you can find it everywhere in Italy…it’s just made differently based on where you are. I believe, based on some research I did, that the original dish came from Rome (and many times, you will find anchovies in the Roman version). In Tuscany, you won’t find any kind of tomato in it. Meanwhile, in Naples, their version is drier (more like a stew than a soup) and somewhat creamier.
I’ve made this dish a million different ways, depending on what I have around. This version is the most basic. You can start with a trinity (adding chopped celery and carrots to the onions), you can mash half of the chickpeas to make it creamier, you can sub in chopped tomatoes instead of the paste if you have them lying around and you can even throw in some chopped greens (you know, so you don’t feel badly about the carb overload!)
You can also use any kind of pasta. This short/small tube-like pasta called ditalini is what I usually use, but you can also use any small pasta (or even home-made pasta like lasagna cut into smaller pieces) .
In Italy, many people will use dried chickpeas and soak them overnight. But I think this soup is so easy, there is no need to complicate things – canned chickpeas are totally fine (and remember you can use the liquid in the can called aquafaba for a ton of things [check out this post if you’ve never heard of it!!] ).
Again, all of this stuff is so easy to keep in your pantry…a very easy dish indeed!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know about saving your Parmesan rinds in the freezer for days like this when you’re making a soup (if you didn’t know that, check out this post!!)
But, I bet this is something you didn’t know…
When I went on a press trip with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, we went to many cheese farms. I was speaking to one of the farmers and he told me that, after they use the rind to flavour a soup or stew, they put the soft rind on a grill and serve it on a charcuterie board (remember, a true parmigiano reggiano has an aged rind with no wax, so it is completely edible). I diced it up a quickly and put it in a pan with a touch of olive oil. It stuck to the bottom a bit but, man, was it a tasty treat!!
So, now that the weather is turning and we all need more soup in our lives, I’d love it if you could try this one out! It’s so fast, you won’t believe it. And without the parm, it’s even vegan!!
Pasta e Ceci Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
- 1/2 tin (5.5 fl oz) tomato paste, about 3 tbsp
- 2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 19 oz can cooked chickpeas (about 1 1/2 cups) drained and rinsed
- 2 cups uncooked pasta (traditionally ditalini) (you can use any small shaped pasta)
- 8 cups water
- parmigiana rind (optional)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- Red pepper flakes (or hot oil)
- In a large pot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onion and cook until soft (about 5 minutes. Add the 2 cloves of garlic and cook, stirring until it softens but doesn't brown.
- Stir in the tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook with the onion/garlic mixture for about a minute.
- Add the chickpeas and water and bring to a boil. Once the water has come to a boil, add in pasta, lower the heat, and simmer until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes (NOTE: if you are using the cheese rind, you should tuck it into your soup pot here and let it cook with the pasta). Depending on how "soupy" or "stewy" you like your dish, you can add additional water here (just remember to re-season)
- Once the soup is done (when the pasta is tender), heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a small pan over medium-low heat, add remaining 2 cloves of garlic, a pinch of pepper flakes and cook until the garlic almost begins to colour. Pour this over the soup and stir well (if the original garlic, that is a large piece, bothers you, you can fish that out here).
- Remove the parmigiano rind (if using), taste (see post for ideas on what to do with the rind), adjust seasoning if necessary and ladle soup into bowls. Serve immediately.