Pasta e ceci is somewhere between a soup and a stew, depending on how you finish it. Chickpeas, pasta, passata, broth. Then you finish all that off with kale, a grating of Parmesan, and a drizzle of good olive oil. A hearty Roman meal that relies on the basics—but it’s anything but basic, baby.
We believe in the principle of nourishing the soul with food that nourishes the body—making us happy, giving us a healthy gut and a boosted immune system, as a result. We believe that we should all use extra virgin olive oil in abundance and wine and cheese might actually be good for you.–Rebecca Seal & John Vincent
☞ Table of Contents
HOW LONG WILL PASTA E CECI LAST IN THE FRIDGE?
You can store any leftover pasta e ceci in the fridge, well covered, for up to 3 days. The lovely thing about pasta e ceci is that it can be made as either a soup or a stew, and you’ll notice as it sits in the fridge that it definitely becomes thicker. If you refer it more soupy, just add a splash of broth before you reheat it. Otherwise, just enjoy it with slightly puffier and softer noodles—it’s delicious either way.
Pasta e Ceci
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large (6 oz) carrots finely diced
- 2 medium (10 oz) yellow onions finely diced
- 2 stalks (3 1/2 oz) celery finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped red chile (optional)
- 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste or passata
- 3 1/2 to 5 cups vegetable broth or hot water
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- One can (14 ounce) chickpeas in water drained and rinsed (or 8 1/2 ounces [240 g] cooked chickpeas)
- A generous pinch of hot chile flakes or mild red pepper flakes (optional)
- 7 ounces small pasta tubes (ditalini is traditional) gluten-free if needed
- 5 1/4 ounces fresh kale or other leafy greens stems removed and finely sliced (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- In a large, deep pot or Dutch oven with lid over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the carrots, onions, celery, and salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and the onion is translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and chile, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it darkens and melds with the oil.
- Add 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or hot water, plenty of black pepper, the rosemary, chickpeas, and chile or pepper flakes, if using. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- If you prefer a thicker, richer broth, remove about 2 ladlefuls of the stew and use a stick blender to blitz until completely smooth, then pour back into the pot. Otherwise, proceed to step 5.
☞TESTER TIP: If you’ve got some Parmesan rinds stashed in your freezer, toss one into the soup while it simmers.
- Return the soup to a simmer, then add the pasta and 1 cup vegetable broth or hot water. Cover and cook until al dente, according to package instructions, stirring now and then and topping up the broth or water as needed.
- If using, add the kale/cabbage about 3 minutes before the pasta is done, stir and put the lid back on. (If you like well-cooked greens without any crunch, add 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked.)
- Taste and add more seasoning (remember the cheese is salty, too) or chile flakes, if you like. Serve in wide bowls, with Parmesan grated over and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
☞TESTER TIP: When reheating leftovers, stir in additional broth or water, as the soup will thicken considerably as it sits.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love a rich stew on colder nights — the sweetness that pops from the mise-en-place, the hearty bits of meat floating amongst the broth, surprising pops of herbs, and aromatics. Unfortunately, it’s a rare splurge since I’m cutting down on the amount of meat I eat, but this Roman version for pasta e ceci more than fulfills my need for a stew.
The two main components—the ditalini and chickpeas—play excellent straight men to the other dominant ingredients incorporated in this dish. They play particularly well with the red chile flakes and Calabrian chile and cut through their powerful heat. This is also a great excuse to use that nice olive oil you save for special occasion dishes.
It’s also extremely forgiving when it comes to adding some greens. While the recipe calls for a darker green like kale or swiss chard, I used spinach since that’s what I had on hand (though I’d recommend using more than 5 ounces of spinach due to how it wilts down).
I'd recommend step 4 being a mandatory step instead of an optional one. Using an immersion blender on a small portion of the broth gave the whole dish extra body and creaminess.
It’s amazing how so much flavor can be derived from such simple ingredients. Pasta e ceci is vegetarian yet it has all the fulfilling characteristics of a meat-based meal. We absolutely loved everything about it including the added kale at the end!
We’re not big fans of chickpeas, except when they are either crunchy roasted or made into hummus, so I opted to use a can of cannellini beans for the chickpeas in this recipe. Perhaps, in my application, I should be calling this Pasta e Fagioli. When I first looked at the recipe, I wondered how there could be enough flavor created from just two tablespoons of passata and hot water instead of a broth. I was definitely proven wrong. The complexities of the soffritto along with the fresh rosemary, chile flake, passata, and kale really did work together to build a very vibrant flavor to what could have potentially been a very bland stew of pasta and beans.
I followed the directions as noted except for the swap of beans, and all instructions were simple and easy to follow in every step of the flavor-building process. I did not use the chopped red chile but did use the crushed red chile flakes so I could control the heat level. I also pureed 2 ladlesful of the stew to thicken it up a bit. The chopped kale (I used 2 ounces) was added at 3 minutes before the pasta was done and it was perfectly crisp-tender and added a wonderful texture to the stew. I adjusted for seasonings at the end with an additional ¼ teaspoon salt and another grinding of freshly cracked pepper.
I served the stew with the recommended drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese with crusty French rolls on the side. We’ll definitely be doing this dish again, and again!
Originally published July 07, 2021