Italian Regional Recipes Primi Piatti: Pasta, Rice, Soups

Pasta with Chickpeas

Pasta with Chickpeas, Pasta e Ceci in Italian, is a primo piatto famous throughout Italy and there almost is a different version for each region: in some cases the chickpeas are cooked without any tomato, in other cases there’s a handful of cherry tomatoes to replace the tomato sauce. Depending on how much water is used to cook the chickpeas, this nutritious and filling pasta dish sometimes turns even into a thick soup.

And don’t get us started on the various pasta shapes recommended for this preparation! We think cavatelli and ditalini are those that work the best. “Cavatelli” literally means “the little ones that are hollow inside”; it’s a pasta shape traditionally prepared in Apulia and you can see them in the photo above this article. “Ditalini” means instead “small thimbles” and identifies a small pipe-shaped pasta that is often used for thick soups or legumes sauces.

Serves: 2 | Preparation time: 20 mins | Cooking time: 1 hour

  • Cavatelli or Ditalini: 150 g
  • Canned chickpeas: 100 g
  • Pancetta or lard: 50 g
  • Garlic cloves: 2
  • Onions: 1
  • Chili peppers: 1
  • Bay leaves: 1
  • Rosemary: about 1 sprig
  • Tomato sauce: 3 tbsp
  • Water: as needed
  • Extra virgin olive oil: to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Tip: You can use dried chickpeas instead of canned ones – but remember to soak them in water the night before!

Rinse the chickpeas and put them in a pan along with the garlic, the bay leaf, the rosemary and a pinch of salt. Pour in enough water to cover the chickpeas and bring it to a gentle simmer.

Cut the bacon in small cubes and add them to the chickpeas when half of the water has already evaporated. Cook the chickpeas on medium heat until there is no more water or the chickpeas are completely cooked through, then put the chickpeas in a bowl.

Mince the onion and the chili pepper. Heat up the oil and quickly stir-fry both the onion and the chili in the same pan you previously used for the chickpeas. Add the tomato sauce and cook it for 2 to 3 minutes before adding the chickpeas, as well. Sauté all the ingredients together for a good 5 minutes, then remove the garlic, the bay leaf and the rosemary from the sauce; turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid.

Boil the cavatelli in a pot of salted water; drain them when they still have a bit of a bite and add them to the sauce. Stir thoroughly.

Serve warm, topped with a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper.

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