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Brothy Pasta with Chickpeas (a.k.a., Pasta e Ceci) was a staple in my house growing up. I like to think of it as part of a category of Italian and Italian-American dishes that I refer to as “soupy pastas”. In fact, it can be as liquid-y or as dry as you want, depending on your mood. But, there is one thing for certain¬—it is ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD through and through. A simple, yet beautiful, combination of pasta and beans in a very cucina povera sort of way, it is sure to please! Read on to learn more!
Pasta with Chickpeas was affectionately called “pasta and cici beans” beans (pronounced “chee-chee”) in my house growing up in southern New Jersey. It was generally a midweek dinner—as it was quick, it was hearty, it was inexpensive and it was nutritious—all great qualities for my mom feeding a family of four on a budget!
Pasta and Beans . . .
As part of the “pasta and beans” contingency of Italian recipes (and, therefore, consisting of delightful starch with starch), Pasta with Chickpeas is comforting in a special kind of way. It actually feels like a big hug from your mom or grandmom that you don’t want to end.
Like many Italian recipes, there are lots of variations of this dish, most notably regarding the amount of liquid, and the use of a tomato product.
Pasta with Chickpeas can be as quick and simple as broth + canned chickpeas + pasta (with a little extra-virgin olive oil and pecorino thrown in for good measure). Having said this, I’ve designed my recipe here to have a few extra veggies in it for increased nutrition, flavor, and texture, but you can just as easily leave them out if you prefer.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and make it over and over again! Enjoy!
To make Pasta with Chickpeas, we will be using the following ingredients:
- Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans: I am in favor of high-quality canned beans and use them regularly. This dish that works beautifully with canned beans. The only wild card is to whether or not to use the starchy liquid that comes with the canned beans. This is a personal choice, but here is my advice:
- If you buy no- or low-sodium high quality (preferably organic) canned beans, then it is okay to use the bean liquid. Otherwise, you may end up with an overly salty, briny and strange tasting liquid in your dish. If you choose not to use the canned bean liquid and have homemade chicken stock available, the collagen in the stock will create texture in the final dish. Otherwise, just use additional vegetable or chicken broth in place of the bean liquid. Of course, starting with dried beans and then soaking and cooking them is a great idea and very cost effective!
- Canned Whole Tomatoes: Adds umami (savoriness) and a depth of flavor to the soup. I almost always choose to use whole tomatoes as opposed to diced or pureed as they are less processed.
- Broth (vegetable or chicken): Homemade is always preferred. If purchased, I suggest a low- or no-sodium version. (Regular varieties are laden with sodium and it is always better for you to control the amount of salt in the final product!)
- Pasta: Lots of small-to-medium-sized pastas work well in this dish. Shells, ditalini, campanelle and mezze rigate, are all great options, among many others.
- Parmigiano or Pecorino Cheese Rind: Adds a savory depth and body to the broth.
- Pecorino Romano Cheese: Adds sharpness and saltiness to the finished soup – in a good way!
The Aromatics . . .
- Garlic, Yellow Onions, Carrots and Celery: These ingredients are important components in building a strong base of flavor in many soups, and also add texture and nutrition!
- Fresh Herbs (rosemary and marjoram): Add tons of flavor. These are both very fragrant herbs and a little goes a long way!
- Olive Oil: Used to caramelize the tomato paste and sauté the vegetables. And, use the great quality stuff to drizzle over the finished dish!
- Salt: So, salt is a super-interesting ingredient and topic for me.
- These days, there are limitless varieties and textures of the stuff available from both the mountains and the sea all over the world. (And, I have about a dozen of those varieties right now in my pantry…) Believe it or not, they do vary in levels of saltiness!
- So, having said this, all of the amounts of salt that I present here in my recipes need to be taken with a grain of you-know-what! But, seriously, the amount of salt in one’s dish is a highly personal preference. And, nothing can ruin a great dish like over-salting it.
- Having said this, my suggestion is to salt, taste, salt, taste, etc. until you are satisfied.
- Crushed Red Pepper: Adds both flavor and a touch of heat. Feel free to leave this out if you prefer. It’s best to add this to the pan at the beginning along with the garlic and olive oil so that its flavors infuse into the oil.
- Black Pepper: Always to your taste and always freshly ground black pepper, if possible!
A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.
Step-By-Step, Pro-Tips included!
Here are the main steps for how to make Pasta with Chickpeas:
- Prep and measure all ingredients. Also,be sure to rinse or peel all vegetables before using.
- PRO-TIP: Feel free to coarsely chop the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a food processor to save time.
- Sauté the vegetables in heated olive oil until they have softened a bit, then add in rosemary, cooked chickpeas and canned whole tomatoes.
- PRO-TIP: The tomatoes can either be hand-crushed prior to adding them to the pot or crushed using a potato masher once added to the pot.
- Add broth and cheese rind to the pot, then simmer for about 15 minutes or so. If desired, partially puree the soup carefully with an immersion blender.
- Then, get the pasta water ready.
- PRO-TIP: Don’t skimp on the water! Use a large pot with 6 quarts water for 1 pound of pasta. And, bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. The water will boil a little more strongly for a second when you do so, and this will ensure that the salt is dissolved immediately. If you add the salt to the pot when the water is cold, it may just deposit on the bottom of the pot. Use 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp salt, depending on which type used. (See comment in RECIPE INGREDIENTS above.)
- Cook the pasta halfway in salted, boiling water, then drain and transfer it to the soup. Next, cook until the pasta is al dente and then the soup is finished!
- Top off each bowl of soup with some premium extra-virgin olive oil, Pecorino Romano cheese and additional chopped herbs, if desired.
Recipe Variations for Pasta with Chickpeas
Pasta with Chickpeas is pretty perfect as is, but here are a few ideas for simple twists on this recipe:
- Keep it Simple! This dish can be just as delicious without the onions, celery, carrots and tomatoes. Even though I like to use them, feel free to try this dish without them!
- Make it Brothier or Less Soupy: Make this thick and hearty soup brothier just by adding additional both, to your liking. Likewise, if you prefer this to be more of a pasta dish as opposed to a soup, use less liquid!
- Add Meat: Pulled chicken or mini-meatballs would be a great addition to this dish, as both work wonderfully!
- Add Greens: Spinach, escarole and swiss chard would all add great flavor, texture and nutrition to this dish. Put them in the dish along with the pasta, if using.
What to Serve With Pasta with Chickpeas
Pasta with Chickpeas is definitely a complete meal, containing ample amounts of protein, fat and carbs. So, I suggest enjoying a large bowlful of it along with a simple green salad afterwards. And, if you are up for it, some crusty bread!
Alternatively, serve Pasta with Chickpeas as a First Course in a smaller portion and follow it with a simple grilled chicken, salmon or steak or plate of assorted Roasted Vegetables.
Kitchen Tools & Cookware for Pasta with Chickpeas
To make this Pasta with Chickpeas recipe, you will need the following:
- Cutting board with non-slip mat underneath (I use shelf liner)
- Vegetable peeler
- Sharp chef’s knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Multiple bowls to hold prep
- Can opener
- Food processor to chop vegetables (optional)
- Large wooden or stainless-steel spoon to stir soup
- Potato masher
- Large pot or Dutch oven to make soup
- Immersion blender
- Large (6–8 qt) pot for cooking pasta
- Colander, large mesh strainer or spider for scooping out or draining pasta
- Cheese grater (optional)
- Ladle to serve soup
More Great Recipes to Try
If you’ve tried this recipe or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!
Pasta with Chickpeas
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup small diced yellow onions
- 1 cup small diced celery
- 1 cup small diced carrots
- 2 Tbsp chopped garlic
- pinch crushed red pepper
- 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 6 (15.5 ounce) cans cooked chickpeas plus liquid (if low sodium) (See NOTE below.)
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes
- 4 cups low- or no-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1-2 parmigiano or pecorino rinds, if available
- salt for pasta water (see NOTE below)
- 1 pound dry pasta shells or other small pasta
- 1-2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram, plus more for serving
- 1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1-2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
- grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
- Prep all ingredients according to specifications above.
- Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for about 4 minutes, or until vegetables have softened a bit, stirring occasionally.
- Add rosemary sprig, chickpeas and their liquid, and tomatoes and stir. Carefully mash the tomatoes using a potato masher to your desired level of chunkiness, then add the broth and rind and mix until all ingredients are well-combined.
- Cover pot and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer, partially covered, for about 15 to 18 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, stirring regularly.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta.
- Remove rosemary sprig and reduce heat to low. Then carefully purée the mixture PARTIALLY using an immersion blender. Leave as many chunks as you desire, but a roughly 30% puree is a great place to start. Stir in fresh herbs. (The puréeing step is optional. See NOTE below.)
- Once the pasta water comes to a boil, add some salt. (Use 1 1/2-2 Tbsp salt, depending on which type used. See comment in RECIPE INGREDIENTS above.) Add pasta to salted water and cook for HALF the time noted on the package.
- Use a spider or hand strainer to transfer the partially-cooked pasta to the pot of soup and stir well. Simmer until the pasta is al dente, then turn off heat. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Ladle soup into bowls and serve piping hot. Top each bowl of Pasta with Chickpeas with a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano cheese, and some chopped herbs, if desired. Buon Appetito!
- This recipe can easily be cut in half to yield a smaller amount.
- To save time when cooking, prep the vegetables in advance and store them in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator for up to one day.
- If you use canned beans to make this dish, the only wild card is to whether or not to use the starchy liquid that comes with the canned beans. This is a personal choice, but here is my advice: if you buy no- or low-sodium high quality (preferably organic) canned beans, then it is probably okay to use the bean liquid. Otherwise, you may end up with an overly salty, briny and strange tasting liquid in your dish. If you choose not to use the canned bean liquid and have homemade chicken stock available, the collagen in the stock will create texture in the final dish. Otherwise, just use some vegetable or chicken broth as the liquid in this recipe.
- If you prefer to start with dried beans, use about 1 pound dried chickpeas. Soak them in water overnight, then drain them and boil them in a large pot with fresh water until tender.
- The whole tomatoes can be hand-crushed prior to adding them to the pot, instead of with a potato masher in the pot.
- No need to partially puree the beans and vegetables in the soup if you prefer a more brothy and thin soup with lots of chunks. The puréeing step is yields a thicker soup with greater variety of texture, but is completely optional.
- Use a large (7-8 quart) pot with 6 quarts water for 1 pound of pasta. Bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. Use 1 1/2-2 Tbsp salt, depending on which type used. (See comment in INGREDIENTS above.)
- The soup gets better as it sits, so it is a great option to make ahead of time. It does, however, tend to get thicker as the pasta absorbs more and more liquid. So, you may want to add some water when reheating.
- This soup freezes really well! Make a large batch, portion it into containers and freeze for up to two months to enjoy down the road.
- Don’t forget to drizzle the finished dish with some high quality extra-virgin olive oil for an additional hit of flavor and richness.