Thursday, November 3, 2011

Simple Food: Pasta e Ceci

That's what my grandmother called it, simple food. Pasta is cooked with chick peas, then tomato paste is added to the pasta water to create a light tomato sauce. All made in one pot, how much simpler could it be?

I only had Grandma's version once. She brought it over to her daughter's house while I was visiting.  As she stood there holding her saucepan of soup, I ran over to see what was inside and very excitedly told her how delicious it looked. She seemed embarrassed by my enthusiasm. She said, "It's just pasta with ceci."  In other words this is not food that one makes a fuss over. I got that, but she'd made it with homemade pasta and nothing got me more excited than her pasta. Plus, I was always a fan of those simple, peasant dishes so common in Italy. As I savored that first bite, I asked Grandma how to make it. Here's what she said, "Just boil some macaroni, throw in the ceci, add a litte tomato paste to thicken it and you're done." Ok, so those weren't the most detailed instructions, but I stored it for later and assumed I'd figure it out when the day came for me to make it. Yesterday I cooked a batch of chick peas and recalled that first night I had pasta e ceci, so in honor of Grandma I made a batch. 

Pasta e Ceci inspired by Grandma
1/2 lb of uncooked pasta 
(I used Tinkayada gluten-free pasta, but any pasta will do and homemade is the best)
1 cup chick peas
1/4 cup leftover tomato sauce (optional)
3 tbsp tomato paste
Fresh basil
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a pot of water to boil and add the pasta. Allow to cook for for a minute, then add the cooked chick peas. When the pasta is done (should be al dente) drain a little water from the pan so you have nice balance between the liquid and the pasta and chick peas. Add the sauce and tomato paste to the pasta water. Allow to simmer a few more minutes, then serve with chopped fresh basil and grated cheese. 

To cook dried chick peas:
Rinse the dried chick peas and add to a heavy stock pot. Add water until it's about 4-5 inches above the peas. Allow to soak for about an hour. Cook over medium heat until tender. This should take about an hour and a half. Add salt to taste after the peas are fully cooked. Drain and use, or store in the fridge for up to a week. 

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