Pasta e Ceci-Italian Chickpea Soup is a classic Roman dish that comes together in one pot. A rich tomato broth, hearty chickpeas and pasta, this is total Italian comfort food that’s ready in 30 minutes!
This is an ideal quick weeknight dinner, since it all comes together in one pot. You probably have the ingredients to put it together in your pantry and kitchen. The most important part of the soup is the canned chickpeas. What is great about canned chickpeas is that they stay firm and flavorful.
This delicious Italian soup is totally gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta (or just omit the pasta). It is vegan/vegetarian if you use vegetable broth. A cozy Italian soup that warms the soul. We could all use a little extra of that these days.
Sure, you could use dried chickpeas (instead of canned) and soak them overnight. But the best part of this recipe is the simplicity, and canned chickpeas are all you need, as they are convenient and full of flavor.
So you’ll need to begin it all with your soffritto. The olive oil is so important. I highly suggest using extra-virgin olive oil. The fruitier, the better the flavor of your soup. Take your time and make sure you don’t brown the vegetables.
Fresh rosemary is really is ideal and adds an incredible flavor dimension to the soup. It all gets cooked up with the pasta of your choice (a short pasta is best, like ditalini). It’s totally fine to make adjustments to make this your own!
What is pasta e ceci?
Pasta e Ceci (pasta and chickpeas) is an iconic Italian chickpea soup. This peasant soup goes all the way back to the Roman days. Pasta e Ceci translated to English means “pasta and chickpeas”. This flavorful soup comes together easily with what you have in your pantry.
The base starts with a soffritto of onions, celery, and carrots (original Roman version is without carrots and actually includes anchovies). A bit of tomatoes and rosemary finishes the simple and delicious flavor.
Is it a soup or is it a stew? If you leave it really thick, it’s more like a stew. So it’s all depending on how you like the texture. Mine is in between a soup and a stew.
Variations of Pasta e Ceci
In any home in any part of the 20 regions of Italy, you will find pasta e ceci. And this simple peasant dish will vary from region to region, cook to cook. Of course, the common factor of the recipe in each region will be the pasta and the chickpeas.
Tuscan nonna’s will not add tomatoes, however there are many regional versions of the dish. And the version you’ll find in Naples will be more velvety (and no tomatoes). In Puglia you’ll find fresh tomatoes add in (which I sometimes do). The original Roman version will have anchovies in it.
Some versions in Italy have only garlic and some the traditional soffritto (carrots, celery and onion). Some Italian versions are light colored and some a little bit red with just a bit of tomatoes. You’ll find some versions dry (no broth at all)and some more soupy, and some creamy. Some recipes even add pancetta to the soffritto.
And as for the pasta, in Naples they’ll make it with a pasta mista and in Puglia, they’ll use cavatelli or tubetti. Some mamma’s and nonna’s will make it maltagliatti or even a nice short pasta.
My Calabrian mother-in-law sometimes puts it together with dried chickpeas she’s cooked up and whatever leftover pasta she has on hand. Maybe she’ll throw in some onion and chunks of carrots. Fresh rosemary from her garden and drizzles of her Calabrian olive oil, and it is simply heavenly!
What pasta is used in pasta e ceci?
I typically use ditalini. You could use even small shells or broken pasta pieces, like they do in Italy.
Is it pasta or is it soup? Well the answer is that it’s a bit of both. Some people prefer it more soup-y with more liquid in it, and others (myself included) prefer it more hearty with more pasta in it than broth (as pictured). That’s one of the beauties of this dish- you can customize it to your liking.
Some recipes omit the canned tomatoes, or cook the pasta on the side, and then add it to the soup – there are so many variations of this recipe out there! But this is the version that I grew up with.
Is it best to use canned chickpeas?
My preference is canned chickpeas, but you could certainly use dried chickpeas. You may be like me and have a shelf with canned beans since this past spring. This is the perfect recipe to finally use them up!
And most importantly, this is a simple and unfussy Italian recipe, so canned chickpeas are the most convenient. Also, canned chickpeas are the the one bean that truly hold their shape in the can. They are nice and firm, and that makes them perfect for this soup.
Pasta e Ceci recipe ingredients
All that’s needed are a handful of simple ingredients, many of which are probably already in your pantry and kitchen.
- Vegetables – onion, carrots, and onion. The soffritto that starts off the delicious flavors. And a touch of garlic (if you like it).
- Chickpeas – canned chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are so great to cook with and full of protein.
- Tomatoes-canned tomatoes help to make the tasty broth (I used canned Italian cherry tomatoes, but San Marzano also work great!)
- Seasonings – salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. I also used dried rosemary that my Italian mother-in-law made for me in Italy.
- Broth – l used my own homemade broth (chicken or vegetable is fine) or low sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Use vegetable broth to make this vegan/vegetarian
- Pasta – Ditalini is what I usually use to make his soup Macaraoni or even broken lasagna pieces work fine.
- Olive oil – I use extra-virgin (Sicilian) olive oil to sauté the vegetables and also to drizzle on top before serving. Extra-virgin is so fruity and flavorful.
How to make pasta e ceci
The first thing is to gather your ingredients. Canned chickpeas is the best for this recipe.
Start first with chopping the onions, carrots and celery. Also the garlic (if you’re using).
I used sea salt, freshly ground pepper, dried and fresh rosemary and bay leaves.
I used a can of very naturally sweet Italian cherry tomatoes. Otherwise, I would use a can of San Marzano plum tomatoes. If you use plum tomatoes, you need to prep the tomatoes by gently crushing and removing the white inside (it’s a little tough… I use my clean hands to do this).
In a large pot (I like to use my Dutch oven), heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add in the diced onions, carrots, and celery, and saute for about 8-10 minutes until onion is soft and translucent.
Add the minced garlic and saute’ for a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the garlic and stir as it will brown quickly (1-2 minutes is enough to cook up the garlic).
Add in the tomatoes and use a wooden spoon to break them up. Add in the chickpeas and stir together. Next, add in the salt, pepper, rosemary and bay leaves.
Stir in the broth.
If you’re not using a low sodium broth, wait to add salt until after you add your broth. Next, add in the broth.
Bring to a boil for a few minutes and then lower the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
If you are cooking the pasta in the broth, this is when you add it in (If you are not cooking the pasta in the broth, cook it in a medium sized pot in boiling and salted water).
Cook the pasta in the soup, at a low boil until al dente, stirring frequently to keep from sticking, until the pasta is al dente (it will keep cooking when you remove from the heat)and the broth has thickened, 8-10 minutes, depending on which pasta you choose. Check the flavor and if needed, season with some more salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Ladle into bowls and serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
The dish should be creamy and more soup-like than typical pasta with sauce.
FAQ & Pasta e Ceci Tips:
How do the leftovers keep?
The pasta does absorb all of the liquid, so if you are planning to make extra to eat throughout the week, cook the pasta on the side. I’m not a fan of mushy pasta reheated in a soup. IF you don’t mind mushy pasta, go ahead and store the pasta in the soup and thin it out with extra broth when you reheat.
Can this recipe be made vegan?
As long as you use vegetable broth, this is a vegan soup!I always have homemade chicken broth on hand and it works great in this recipe.
Can this recipe be made gluten-free?
Yes, it sure can! All you have to do is use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
Can I use dried chickpeas to make this dish?
Yes, you’ll just need to soak them overnight and cook them up the next day. You’ll need 2 cups of cooked dried chickpeas. So if you prefer to cook up your own chickpeas, go ahead follow rest of recipe once you’ve cooked up your dried chickpeas.
How to make this without soggy, mushy pasta?
The trick I do (and it drives my Calabrian mother-in-law a bit crazy), I cook the pasta separately. I drain it and drizzle olive oil on top and stir it all together. When the soup is ready, I add the pasta to the bowl and add the soup on top. I have to make it like this without my mother-in-law watching or she will reprimand me! And even my husband does not understand why I don’t make it like his mamma does. I know, it’s a struggle!
How to store this soup
To store pasta e ceci soup in the refrigerator: Once the soup has cooled completely, place it into an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
The soup does thicken when it stores. You’ll need to add a little broth to thin it out when reheating. That’s another reason I prefer to cook my pasta on the side and store whatever leftovers in a separate container. As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of mushy pasta in my soup. I prefer to cook pasta on the side if I’m making a big pot of this that will have leftovers. It’s really up to you how you like to do the pasta.
Can you freeze pasta e ceci soup?
Yes, you can freeze the soup. If you plan to make extra to freeze, I recommend cooking the pasta separately and adding pasta to individual portions when serving.
Once soup has completely cooled down, transfer the soup to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw soup overnight in the refrigerator and reheat on medium low. Cook up some pasta to serve with it and enjoy.
PIN for later!
More soups to enjoy:
Pasta e Ceci
- ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 2 carrots peeled finely diced
- 2 stalks celery leaves removed and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 14 ounces canned whole tomatoes, hand crushed
- 7- 8 cups stock vegetable or chicken low sodium (I used my homemade chicken broth)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or dried rosemary if you can't get fresh
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dried ditalini pasta or another type of small pasta
- salt and pepper to taste
- extra olive oil for drizzling
- Heat the oil in a large pot ( I like to use my Dutch oven) over medium heat.
- Add in the diced onions, carrots, and celery, and saute for about 8-10 minutes until onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the minced garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the garlic and stir as it will brown quickly (1-2 minutes is enough to cook up the garlic).
- Add in the tomatoes and use a wooden spoon to break them up (if using canned plum tomatoes, break them up before adding, and remove the tough white core).
- Add in the chickpeas and stir together.
- Next, add in the salt, pepper, rosemary and bay leaves (if you’re not using a low sodium broth, wait to add salt until after you add your broth).
- Bring to a boil for a few minutes and then lower the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
- If you are cooking the pasta in the broth, this is when you add it in (If you are not cooking the pasta in the broth, cook it in a separate medium sized pot in boiling and salted water until al dente. Drain, drizzle on olive oil and reserve in a bowl until the chickpea soup is ready).
- Cook the pasta in the soup, at a low boil until al dente, stirring frequently to keep from sticking, until the pasta is al dente (it will keep cooking when you remove from the heat) and the broth has thickened, 8-10 minutes, depending on which pasta you choose. Add more broth or water if it's thickened too much and you would like it thinner.
- Check the flavor and if needed, season with some more salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Ladle into bowls and serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.