Two staple ingredients in most Italian kitchens are pasta and ceci (pronounced che-chi in Italian, and more commonly known in English as chickpeas or garbanzo beans). And if they are staples at your house, you could make up a nice pot of Pasta and Ceci Soup for supper tonight-assuming, that is, that you’re not one of the 5 million people on the East Coast without power after Hurricane Sandy!

Pasta and Ceci is similar to the more familiar Pasta e Fagioli or Pasta and Beans. With 15 grams of protein in a cup of chickpeas, this makes a quick, healthy supper since the pasta (whole grain) complements the chickpeas (legumes) to make a complete protein.

As with many Italian dishes, I’m  amazed how this soup has such great flavor while using just a few simple ingredients. I begin by sauteing some diced onion in a little olive oil along with  fresh rosemary and sage. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use dried…

After the onions are tender and the herbs are fragrant, I added 2 cups (1 can) of chickpeas…

…and some vegetable broth. Chicken broth would work just as well…

I let that come to a boil and simmered it for 5-10 minutes. On the back burner, I brought a pot of water to a boil…and added some of my fresh herbs, for more depth of flavor, and then the ditalini pasta…

If you’re an American, you can use another small-shaped pasta. But the Italians have strong feelings about what shape of pasta goes best with each dish…and ditalini (small tubes) are the shape they have to use for Pasta and Ceci. I cook the pasta just until it’s al dente (firm but done), then drain it and set the pasta aside.

For this recipe I always cook my pasta separately. I guess you could add the pasta into the soup broth but I really dislike mushy, overdone pasta and it’s easier to control when cooked separately.

Now I puree another 2 cups (or 1 can) of chickpeas in my processor, adding some of the soup broth to thin it out and make it easier to puree…

I add the puree to the simmering soup…

Stir it all together…look how creamy that makes it!

While that’s coming back to a boil, I put some cubes of Grana Padano rind into each bowl… (Grana Padano is considered the poor-man’s Parmesan; fine for everyday use.)

Technically you don’t have to add the cheese cubes to this recipe but I started adding cheese cubes to some of my soups when I moved to Italy and began grating my own Parmesan. My mother-in-law introduced me to this tasty way to use up the leftover rind. If you don’t have rind, you might like to try just adding some cubes of hard cheese…a wonderful surprise to find in a spoonful of soup!

I add some of the drained pasta to the cheese cubes…

…and ladle some hot soup on top…

If you know you’re going to eat up the whole pot of soup tonight, you might add the pasta right into the pot of soup. But I so dislike pasta leftovers where the pasta has soaked up the broth and turned into these huge, soggy pieces of pasta that I prefer putting some into each individual bowl.

That, my friend, is a delicious warm bowl of soup to enjoy on a rainy, cold night!

It’s not only tasty-with the subtle flavors of rosemary and sage-but also healthy, filling, and inexpensive to make. So next time they forecast a hurricane, or a blizzard, get you some chickpeas and ditalini and enjoy a nice, hot bowl of soup!

I often rehydrate my own dried beans, but canned one work too. Either type can be stored for a rainy day…so enjoy!



Pasta and Ceci (Chickpeas)

Yield: 6-8 servings


  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-5 fresh sage leaves finely chopped, and several whole sage leaves for pasta water (or 1 tsp. dried sage)
  • 2 T. fresh rosemary finely chopped and 1-2 stalks rosemary for pasta water (or 2 tsp. dried rosemary)
  • 6 C. (1.5 liters) vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 (15 oz./400 g) cans chickpeas, drained (approximately 4 C./800 g)
  • 1 1/2-2 C. (200-250 g) ditalini or other small-shaped pasta


  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion, finely chopped sage and rosemary. Saute 3-5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add 2 C. (1 can) drained chickpeas, and the broth. Bring to a boil and simmer 5-10 minutes.
  3. Puree the remaining can of chickpeas in a blender or food processor. You may need to add a few ladles of the soup broth to process them more easily.
  4. Add the pureed beans to the broth and return it to a boil.
  5. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring 2 quarts (2 liters) of salted water to a boil. Add the whole sage leaves and rosemary stalks, and then the pasta. Cook just until al dente; drain and stir into the soup just before serving.
  6. Alternately, put some pasta in each bowl and ladle the soup over it. This way, if there are leftovers, you can store the pasta and the soup broth separately and the pasta won't soak up the broth and get soggy.

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