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Weekend Recipe: Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

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Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)
Photo: Courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

This pasta e ceci from Cook's Illustrated is simple to prepare, yet packed full of satisfying flavor.

We cook chickpeas and ditalini in the same pot to blend the dish, using the starch released by the pasta to create a silky, stick-to-your-ribs texture. Before adding the pasta, we simmer the chickpeas to give them a creamy softness. We build flavor (without adding a distracting texture) by using a finely minced soffritto of onions, garlic, carrot, celery, and pancetta, an addition that gives the dish a meaty backbone. And we achieve depth of flavor by adding anchovies, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)
Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 ounces pancetta, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 small celery rib, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 onion, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (do not drain)
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces (1 ½ cups) ditalini
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)

INSTRUCTIONS

Another short pasta, such as orzo, can be substituted for the ditalini, but make sure to substitute by weight and not by volume.

1. Process pancetta in food processor until ground to paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add carrot, celery, and garlic and pulse until finely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses. Add onion and pulse until onion is cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces, 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer pancetta mixture to large Dutch oven. Pulse tomatoes in now-empty food processor until coarsely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses. Set aside.

2. Add oil to pancetta mixture in Dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fond begins to form on bottom of pot, about 5 minutes. Add anchovy, pepper flakes, and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas and their liquid, water, and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing Parmesan and extra oil separately.

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