Pasta e ceci is undeniably my mom’s most famous dish. If people are going to her house for dinner, they request she make it. Even my cousin Danny likes it, who is one of the pickier eaters in our family. Aldo, a family friend and handyman that comes by to do odd jobs around her house requests that he gets paid in dishes of pasta e ceci. It’s THAT GOOD.
I call this recipe my mom’s recipe but it’s actually my nonna’s recipe. My mom learned how to make it from her when she was growing up in Sperlonga, Italy. After doing some research on the dish, I learned that pasta e ceci is a traditional Roman dish. Sperlonga is quite close to Rome, so it makes sense that this recipe made its way down to my mom’s hometown.
Now you might be wondering what pasta e ceci is? It’s a soup that has pasta and chick peas (ceci) as the stars of the dish. Supporting characters include onions, celery and carrots. It’s like pasta e fagioli’s long-lost sister that made a comeback and stole the spotlight from its sibling (at least that’s how I feel about it).
Some people prefer it more soup-y with more liquid in it, and others (myself included) prefer it more hearty with more pasta in it than broth (as pictured). That’s one of the beauties of this dish- you can customize it to your liking.
I think the key to pasta e ceci is simple: use ceci (chick peas). Don’t substitute any other bean, because then you would end up with pasta e fagioli. And there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just that I feel the chick peas make this dish unique. Once plated, I always finish mine off with a drizzle of good quality olive oil, chili flakes, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
I’m going to share my mom’s (or nonna’s, whatever way you want to look at it) famous pasta e ceci recipe with you, because it’s too good to be kept a secret. And don’t worry, I checked with her before sharing!
Pasta e ceci
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic
3 cups strained tomatoes (I use this one)
1 (540mL) can chick peas
1 bay leaf
2 L chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 ½ cups small shell pasta (I use these)
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra olive oil for drizzle
Parmesan cheese q.b.
chili flakes q/b.
- On medium heat, heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onion, celery and carrot. Add garlic when vegetables are about halfway cooked. Let cook until all vegetables are tender.
- Add tomato sauce, chick peas, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to the pot (note – when adding the chick peas, add the liquid from the can too. This will add extra flavor). Let the tomato sauce reduce until thick – about 30 minutes.
- Add chicken or vegetable broth to the pot. Let it come to a boil. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Add pasta to pot once the soup is boiling. Let pasta cook until it’s soft. Since this is a soup, you want the consistency of the pasta to be cooked a bit more than al dente.
- Plate, and top with olive oil, parmesan and chili flakes.