In a spirit of solidarity with my Italian friends shivering in the snow,
I offer this most Roman of comfort foods, Pasta e Ceci.
Call them ceci, chickpeas, or garbanzos, if you look at these little legumes (or pulses) closely and use some imagination, you’ll see that they resemble little ram heads which is how they got their Latin name, cicer arietinum, from aries, meaning ram.
If you’re not going to Italy any time soon and find yourself in need of culinary nurturing, you can order exceptional Umbrian chickpeas (much better than what you’ll find in your grocery store) at Gustiamo.
NOTE: Romans love this dish so much they figured out a way to incorporate it into the summer menu by serving it room temperature and calling it Pasta e Ceci Freddo.
PASTA E CECI
(pasta and chickpea soup)
2 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large garlic cloves, one whole, one minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, minced (optional)
2-3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1 cup canned plum tomatoes, chopped
8 oz. (or slightly less) dried pasta (spaghetti broken in pieces or quadrucci)
1 chili pepper (peperoncini) (optional)
salt to taste
Cover chick peas with cold water and baking soda and soak 8 to 12 hours.
Drain and rinse chickpeas. Put chickpeas in large pot with about 6 quarts water and one whole garlic clove. After it comes to a boil, lower heat, partially cover and cook until tender, about 2 hours. Drain chickpeas and reserve the cooking water for later.
Puree about 3/4 cup of the cooked chickpeas.
Return pot to stove, add olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, and minced anchovies and saute gently over medium heat, being careful not to burn – about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and one cup of cooking water. Add the peperoncino and a few teaspoons salt to taste and cook until tomatoes are softened, about 15 minutes.
Add chickpeas, the pureed chickpeas, and enough cooking water to just cover the ingredients. Stir occasionally while cooking for about another 15 minutes. Add the pasta and cook only until it becomes al dente. Check for salt, adding more if necessary.
Pour into individual serving bowls, top each portion with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and grated parmigiano-reggiano to taste.
This soup is even better the second day – or even the third – hot or cold.