It's not that I wish to repeat myself. It's not that I've run out of recipes. It's just that I've found an alternate recipe for pasta e ceci, one of my very favorite dishes. It's just that I had to try it, if for no other reason than to compare it to the recipe I normally use. It's just that pasta e ceci is so good, it deserves two separate blog posts. I mean, it deserves a lot more than that, like maybe a medal or something, but blog posts I have to spare.
Pasta e ceci is the essence of tomatoes and chickpeas, slowly simmered for hours to deepen their humble flavors. Both recipes I've found thus far for the dish come from trusted Italian gastronomic experts: the recipe I featured about a year ago came from Giuliano Bugialli and calls for tagliatelle (or similar long pasta) and tomato paste. The recipe I feature tonight is from Paolo Petroni, the Florentine culinary aficionado whose walnut sauce graced my Fiestaware dinner plates last week. Instead of Giuliano's tomato paste and tagliatelle, Paolo instead relies on whole fresh or canned tomatoes and suggests "short pasta" to complete the dish. He also purees about half of the soup -- before adding the pasta -- which makes for a thicker, richer finished product. What both men have in common is fresh rosemary, a heavy hand of freshly-cracked black pepper and, naturally, no small measure of chickpeas.
And as for whose pasta e ceci is better -- Giuliano Bugialli's or Paolo Petroni's -- allow me to sit upon the fence. I see no reason to take sides. There is enough chickpea love to go around.
PASTA E CECI
Adapted from The Complete Book of Florentine Cooking, by Paolo Petroni
This recipe calls for dried chickpeas, which have to be soaked overnight. If you wish to use canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them, then combine with 4 c. of water and pick up the recipe at the step where the olive oil, rosemary, garlic and tomatoes are added. (You will only have to cook it for about 1/2 hour, instead of the 2 hours called for with dried chickpeas. Make sure to try a few to make sure they're cooked through but not mushy.)
Paolo states quite emphatically that this dish should be served "hot or lukewarm with some olive oil and preferably without cheese." If that is how Paolo wishes to roll, so be it. But I'll tell you what: I cannot restrain myself when it comes to pecorino. So I sprinkle some on my soup before serving. But ultimately, I leave this momentous decision to your wise judgement.
7 oz. (1 c.) dried chickpeas
1 t. baking soda
3 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 spring of rosemary, leaves removed
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
About 3 c. canned peeled tomatoes, crushed with your hand
1/2 lb. short pasta (such as penne)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
Pecorino cheese, to garnish
In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas and baking soda. Cover with cold water by a few inches and soak overnight.
The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place the chickpeas in a large pot with 6 c. of water and a few pinches of salt. Cook over medium heat until the chickpeas are yielding but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
Add the olive oil, rosemary, garlic and tomatoes. Stir to combine and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
When the chickpeas are well-cooked, remove about half of the mixture and puree with an immersion blender or regular blender. Return the puree to the pot and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes if you're using penne. If the soup begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, add water as needed and stir through. Add salt and pepper to taste; the soup should be quite thick.
As Paolo says, serve hot or lukewarm with some olive oil and preferably without cheese. As Dianne says, serve hot or lukewarm with some olive oil and preferably with some cheese. Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano, as is your wont.
Makes 4 servings.