Feast on History
Food, wine and art focused tours of Southern Italy
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Italian Things We Love

A magazine devoted to food, wine and art stories in Southern Italy.

Pasta con Ceci

Cilento region looking southeast from the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Pomegranate

Cilento region looking southeast from the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Pomegranate

Pasta con ceci with rosemary (chickpeas) is a simple, inexpensive and healthy dish that is in my regular weeknight dinner rotation. In the Cilento region, where Feast on History tours are set, chickpeas show up everywhere from seafood dishes on the coast to roasted meat dishes deep in the mountains.  Chickpeas are an essential part of the "Mediterranean Diet", recognized by UNESCO, which originated on the Cilento coast. While the term today applies widely to Greek, Spanish and Portuguese food, it was first formalized by American physician Ancel Keys who lived in the Cilento for 28-years. After observing the extraordinary health and longevity of the locals, he wrote about their diet of wild greens, anchovies and beans including chickpeas and he wrote "Eat Well and Stay Well and Stay Well: The Mediterranean Way". Following this diet, Keys himself lived to be 101-years old.

Cilento coast where Ancel Keys first wrote about the Mediterreanen Diet

Cilento coast where Ancel Keys first wrote about the Mediterreanen Diet

More recently, scientists have been looking once again at the Cilento coast, particularly the town of Acciaroli where there is an abundance of nonagenarians. Researchers have pinpointed Cilento rosemary, used liberally in the local cuisine, as a sort of herbal fountain of youth. 

A wide, flat pasta noodle is absolutely key to this dish. I prefer mafalde. A thin pasta or anything like spaghetti will make this dish a gummy mess. This dish is rustic, hearty, inexpensive and good for a cold fall evening. It's also perfect for vegetarians or vegans if you omit a sprinkle of pecorino or parmigiano reggiano cheese at the end.

Pasta con Ceci with Rosemary (Cilento region) Serves 4.

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook Time: 20 minutes, Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of red chili flakes (optional)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 crushed garlic clove

2 cans of chickpeas (including water)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

8 ounces mafalde pasta (broken lasagna will also work)

Method:

Pasta with chickpeas Pasta con ceci

Boil the pasta in 3 quarts of salted water. 

In a wide saucepan, heat the olive oil and red pepper flake over a low flame. Add a clove of crushed garlic and slowly let it soften in the warm oil.

Dump two cans of chickpeas and their water into the pan and let them simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. With a water glass smash about half of the chickpeas. Add the chopped fresh rosemary. Gently stir and raise the flame to medium. Let the water cook off and the flavors condense for about 10 minutes.

When the pasta is al dente, add it to the chickpea mixture with a slotted spoon and stir to coat. (I recommend a slotted spoon because just the right amount of water will be transferred which lets the sauce better adhere to the pasta.) Remove from the flame and plate your pasta. Before serving, add a spiral of high quality olive oil and a sprinkle of pecorino or parmigiano reggiano cheese.