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Author Notes: Since living in Rome I have been trying to work out what makes the pasta ceci here so delicious. I have experimented with all sorts of combinations, and asked advice from many people. Most advised garlic and rosemary as the essential ingredients, but still this lacked the special something I had noticed in various especially good versions.
So I plucked up the courage to ask the mother of a friend, whose pasta ceci is “strabuono” and she generously offered to make it when I was at her house. I did a little dabbling with it so it would be lighter for the summer months, but basically it's Pina's recipe. Nothing can beat this for cheap and better than good, comforting and yet not heavy, so even when consumed, in moderation on a hot summer night, it is satisfying.
This is a food that is eaten in the popular restaurants in Rome and one notices in Italian films from the 50s, 60s and 70s like “C’eravamo tanto amati” and has a legendary quality. —Highbohemian
Serves 8 to 10
- 500g chick peas, soaked over night and cooked till just past al dente with just a bit of olive oil (NO SALT)
- 500g small pasta, like gnochette the Sardinian pasta, which keeps its form well after long cooking
- 4 or 5 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 or 3 small and spicy hot dried chili peppers, crushed a bit
- 8 to 10 anchovy fillets, those from a jar in oil, not the v salty kind, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 good quality stock cubes, chicken or vegetable preferably
- 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into smallish cubes
- extra virgin olive oil
- a generous bunch of flat leaf parsley, washed, picked and chopped
- a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to infuse the olive oil
- in order to get the best results with the chickpeas it is a good idea to buy them as fresh as possible, soak them over night and change the cooking water when just before it comes to the boil (when you see a white foam gather on top of the water) as this tenderizes the skin and makes the chickpeas more digestible. When the chick peas are cooked leave them to sit in their water
- put 1 and half liters of water into a pan and melt one and a half stock cubes in the water over a gentle flame
- in a large heavy bottomed pan heat a generous slosh of olive oil and with the flame not too high melt the garlic, chili and two thirds of the anchovies
- when the mixture in the pot is gently melting and letting its aroma out throw in the onion and melt this
- when the onion starts to turn gently golden throw in the chickpeas from their liquid with a slotted spoon and pour over the prepared stock
- stir the mixture and let cook for 5 mins, then add the potato and let cook for another 25 mins
- taste the soup and if you think it needs a bit more salt or flavour crush up the other stock cube and sprinkle it in instead of salt, bit by bit, and the last third of the anchovies
- when the has thickened check how much liquid there is in relation to the solid and if you think it is not soupy enough for cooking the pasta add a little of the water from the chickpeas and bring to the boil
- throw in the pasta and let it cook for about 5 mins till the pasta is about al dente (the Sardinian pasta needs a little longer to cook than other kinds)
- To serve: ladle a generous spoon of the soup into a large bowl and generously cover with chopped parsley, grated parmesan and extra virgin olive oil that has been infused for several days with rosemary
- note - some people put a rosemary sprig into the pot while cooking but actually it all tastes fresher and less heavy without the rosemary cooked into the mix, the infused oil has a greener fresher taste instead that works better in summer
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Dish with Meat as a Flavoring