Pasta e Ceci

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Cooking the chickpeas yourself is preferable both economically and on grounds of taste, but if you want to make this a storecupboard standby there are excellent bottled or tinned chickpeas available, which allow this recipe to be made in 25 minutes: you’ll need about 1kg (2 lb 4 oz).

Ingredients

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) dried chickpeas
  • 1 large red chilli
  • a few sprigs of rosemary
  • 50 ml ( fl oz) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, very finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 200 g (7 oz) canned chopped tomatoes, best quality available
  • 1 small teaspoon salt
  • 1 small teaspoon golden caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 300 g (10½ oz) small soup pasta (macceroncini, ditalini, maruzzini, tubettini, etc.)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 50 g ( oz) Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, finely grated, to serve

Method

Rinse the chickpeas in cold water, removing the very small and hard ones and any bits that float to the surface, and soak in a large volume of cold water overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas, place in a saucepan, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Turn the heat down, add the chilli and rosemary and simmer, without salt, for a couple of hours until tender, topping up with water if necessary. Once cooked, remove from the heat and allow the chickpeas to cool in their liquid.

Heat a deep, heavy, flameproof casserole dish with the olive oil, then add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and gently soften for 10 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Season with the salt, sugar, a good grinding of black pepper and the chilli flakes. Add the chickpeas and enough of their liquor to keep them afloat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Making sure there is enough liquid to cook the pasta, add it to the soup and continue to cook for 8–10 minutes until the pasta is al dente. The finished soup should have just enough liquid to cover the pasta and chickpeas, but no more. Check the seasoning and serve with the grated cheese alongside.

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