This Pasta with Chickpeas Recipe, or Pasta e Ceci, is made with simple pantry essentials including canned chickpeas, orecchiette pasta, tomatoes, and simple aromatics including onion, carrots, and celery. Easily customizable and ready in less than an hour, enjoy this humble Italian Pasta with Chickpeas with fresh bread and a light tomato salad.
Pasta with Chickpeas (Pasta e Ceci)
Pasta e Cici (or pasta with chickpeas) comes in countless versions and varieties. You will find versions brimming with tomatoes, and those without, some covered in a thick sauce and others in a light broth. Some versions come flavored with pancetta or bacon (like this one), others with a mix of finely minced vegetables, some with both and others with neither.
The only two requirements when it comes to this popular Italian dish? Pasta and chickpeas.
A perfect meal to cozy up with during cold winter months, this pasta with chickpeas isn’t one that I would necessarily consider light. Nutrient-rich, low in fat, and filled with protein, fiber, and carbohydrates, it’s the sort of meal that’s perfect for anyone training for a marathon.
My very favorite part about this Italian dish, however, is that it is so easy to make and one that both my husband and 5-year-old absolutely LOVED!
Ingredients in this Pasta with Chickpeas Recipe
The ingredients needed to make this hearty pasta with chickpeas includes,
- Pancetta – Pancetta is pork belly meat that is salt-cured. Blending the pancetta in a small food processor into a thick and choppy paste, the pancetta is then cooked with the onions, carrots, and celery, low and slow, adding an extra underlying layer of flavor to the sauce. Substitute a couple of slices of bacon for the pancetta if desired.
- Onion, carrots, celery – also known as the Soffrito. These vegetables are cooked low and slow and contribute loads of sweet and savory notes to the overall flavor of the dish.
- Garlic – fresh minced garlic.
- Tomatoes – I knew I wanted a hearty tomato sauce to go with this pasta and chickpeas recipe. For this recipe, this meant tomato paste, canned stewed tomatoes, and fresh tomatoes. If you find that you don’t have any fresh tomatoes, that’s ok! Leave them out and swap for an additional small can of diced tomatoes. Or, if you prefer a sauce that is a little less thick, skip the tomato paste.
- Fresh herbs – I added fresh minced rosemary and thyme. You may also substitute fresh herbs with 1-2 teaspoons of dried Italian seasoning.
- Canned chickpeas – Some people make Pasta e Cici with dried chickpeas while other people make it with canned. Always a fan of saving a little time in the kitchen, I opt to use canned chickpeas that have been drained and rinsed really well.
- Short, dry pasta – I used orecchiette as I had about half a box leftover from a previous recipe. Other short pasta that work great in this recipe includes ditalini or orzo.
- Fresh lemon juice and Parmesan – to garnish.
Best pasta for Pasta e Cici
Any short pasta will work to make this Pasta e Cici. “Ditalini”, short, round pasta tubes, are the classic short pasta for this dish. I chose to use orecchiette, but orzo will also work. You may also use mixed up broken pieces of flat pasta or rombi pasta.
How to cook pasta with Chickpeas
To make this Pasta e Cici Recipe,
- There are a couple of different ways that you could prepare the carrots and celery. Typically, I like to simply chop them nice and small, but for this recipe, I chose to save a little time and chop the carrots and celery in the same food processor that processed the pancetta. You can do the same or you may chop them by hand.
Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the minced garlic and pancetta mixture to the pot. Mix well to combine and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes. Next, mix in the tomato paste and thoroughly mix to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent burning.
Add the stewed tomatoes, crushing the whole canned tomatoes with your hands before adding to the pot, and fresh tomatoes. Bring to a low simmer. Add the fresh minced rosemary, thyme, drained and rinsed chickpeas, and water (or low-sodium broth) to the pot. Mix well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover with a lid and bring to a low simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. You can do this one of two ways – separately or in the same pot. I prefer to cook mine separately as it prevents the noodles from overcooking and prevents the sauce from becoming too starchy.
- To cook the pasta separately simply cook the pasta according to package instructions. Cook until al dente then drain (reserving 1 cup of leftover pasta water). Leave ingredient amounts as listed in the recipe card below with 1 1/2 cups of added water (or broth) being added at the same time as the chickpeas. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and mix well to combine.
- To cook the pasta in the same pot increase the water (or broth) amount to 2 1/2 cups and bring mixture to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes before adding the dry pasta to the pot. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked.
Stir in the lemon juice and parmesan. Mix well to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add additional pasta water or broth to thin. If the pasta sauce is too watery, thicken with 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste and garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired.
How to make this recipe vegetarian
It’s easy to make this pasta and chickpeas recipe vegetarian (or even vegan!) Simply omit the pancetta and substitute the parmesan with a plant-based parmesan.
What to serve with Pasta and Chickpeas
This Pasta e Cici recipe can be enjoyed as a side or as the main course. And though it isn’t filled with heavy cream or greasy ground beef, it is starch-heavy and filled with fiber-heavy chickpeas which help you feel full, longer.
I often serve this easy pasta with chickpeas with a light salad like this Balsamic Tomato Salad or easy Spinach Salad. If salad isn’t your thing, there’s always room for Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Asparagus, or yummy cooked Beets (which happen to be my personal favorite).
If you’re looking for more protein you can always serve a bowl with,
- Garlic Butter Steak Bites (reader favorite!)
- Roast Chicken Recipe
- Easy Baked Chicken Breasts (taste great with everything!)
- Garlic Herb Lamb Chops (delicious alternative to beef or chicken)
- Garlic Butter Pork Chops
More pasta recipes,
- Easy Pasta Primavera Recipe
- Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta Recipe
- The Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- 30 Minute Creamy Ham and Pea Pasta
- 15 Minute Angel Hair Pasta Recipe with Chicken
If you try making this Pasta with Chickpeas Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to read your thoughts and feedback!
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Pasta with Chickpeas (Pasta e Ceci)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 large onion (minced)
- 2 ounces pancetta (roughly chopped)
- 2 carrots (peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces)
- 1 rib celery (chopped into 1/2-inch pieces)
- 6 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (crushed using your hands)
- 2 large tomatoes (cored and diced)
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary (minced)
- 1 tsp fresh thyme (minced)
- 2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
- 8 ounces orecchiette (cooked to al dente)
- 1½ cups water ((or low-sodium broth))
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- grated parmesan cheese (for serving)
- fresh chopped parsley (for serving)
- Saute the onions. Add the olive oil and onions to a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring often, for 6-8 minutes.
- Process the pancetta. Meanwhile, as the onions cook, add the pancetta to a small food processor and blend until ground into a thick paste, scraping down sides as needed. Remove the pancetta and transfer to a small plate. Add the carrots and celery and pulse until minced into small bits. Transfer the small chopped up bits of carrot and celery to the same bowl as the pancetta. Set aside.
- Add the garlic and pancetta mixture. Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the minced garlic and pancetta mixture to the onions. Mix well to combine. Continue to cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste first and thoroughly mix to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the canned stewed tomatoes and fresh tomatoes. Bring to a low simmer.
- Add the fresh herbs, chickpeas, and broth. Add the fresh minced rosemary, thyme, drained and rinsed chickpeas, and water (or low-sodium broth) to the pot. Mix well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover with a lid and bring to a low simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
- Cook the pasta. As the sauce simmers, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Cook until al dente then drain (reserving 1 cup of leftover pasta water).
- Add the cooked pasta, lemon juice, and parmesan to the pot. Mix well to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste and garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)