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.
Adapted from Rebecca Seal & John Vincent | Leon Happy Guts | Conran, 2021
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
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.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
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!
This hearty vegetarian pasta e ceci was easy to put together with pantry staples. The next time I make this I’d use hot broth or stock in place of the hot water. The addition of kale rounds out the dish and ups the nutrition. Instead of the traditional ditalini, I used gluten-free pasta shells which provide the perfect vessel for the chickpeas. I found the stew to be plenty thick without going to the trouble of blending a portion.
This pasta e ceci is a fantastic and filling one-pot dinner that hits all the right notes: salty, some heat, creamy, a few vegetables and it would satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. This take on the traditional recipe is perfect for a cozy dinner and lets you pick your own adventure! In the mood for a hearty soup? Great, just don’t blend down the sauce. Want a thicker and heartier meal? Feel free to blend up the broth a little bit more to get a creamier sauce (and a great vegan alternative to adding in cream.) This recipe can also be adapted for all major dietary restrictions (gluten-free, vegan, or dairy-free) so if you need to feed a diverse group, this is a perfect go-to recipe.
This pasta e ceci is a great, hearty quick soup. I rate this an 8 mostly for the ease of preparation and the fact that most people would have these ingredients on hand. I was skeptical if 2 Tbsp of tomato puree would be enough to notice but combined with the other aromatics and spice the result was very pleasing. Even without meat, the soup was so filling. I used both chile flake and chopped red chile and think they both added to the final result: a nice back note of spiciness.
We enjoyed this soup for lunch with a chunk of crusty bread. Don’t skip the drizzle of olive oil or the freshly grated parmesan! The end result felt light yet filling and very comforting. Since there are but two of us I repurposed the leftovers by adding the rest of a 24 oz jar of tomato puree (that I bought for the original recipe) a diced kielbasa, and a little water for an even heartier version of the original.
Again, this is a great base recipe for new cooks, college kids, or those of us in a hurry. You could substitute shapes of pasta, cabbage for the kale, or add a protein if desired. Prepared as written is very good. I see making this for lunches often.
This pasta e ceci is a hardy, flavorful dish, perfect for a cold or rainy day. Just the right amount of spice and filled with healthy vegetables. There is quite a bit of prep time gathering and chopping ingredients, but once assembled, the ingredients come together quickly.
I highly recommend the optional step of blending some of the cooked vegetables with a stick blender and returning them to the pot. This makes a rich, creamy base. I also recommend adding the optional kale just at the end for added brightness. This is such a complete dish, I served it with just some crusty bread. It was equally as tasty leftover- but I did need to add some more liquid.
Add this pasta e ceci to your Meatless Monday repertoire. It’s hearty, nutritious, and the kick from the fresh chile and pepper flakes make it satisfying, too. The recipe is approachable with easy-to-find ingredients and simple steps you can sail through on a busy weeknight. I decided to blitz 2 ladles of the mixture using an immersion blender (it was a cold night, and I wanted a weighty dinner), and gave my curly kale five minutes to cook—plenty of time to become tender.
“Is this supposed to be a soup, or a stew, or saucy pasta?” The question loomed as I followed the recipe and added more liquid to reach my desired consistency. I would call this version of pasta e ceci a thick soup.
This pasta e ceci is simple comfort food at its most basic, satisfying, and quick to prepare. I opted not to add greens to mine as the kale didn’t look great at my market, but I think that baby spinach would have been a perfect alternative.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
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.