"There are a million different recipes for Pasta e Ceci, it's a very classic Italian recipe," Rach says. "Every family has their own way of doing things, and I'm just going to show you ours."
Normally this pasta dish—made with a can of chickpeas and some other pantry staples—is vegetarian, but Rach likes to add pancetta, which is a favorite of her husband John's.
Rach used fennel in this recipe because that's what she had on hand, but if you don't have any, don't stress! Swap in fennel seed, ground fennel or fennel pollen—or skip it and use a larger onion.
- About 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- ¼ pound pancetta, diced (optional)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- ½ bulb fennel, cored, finely chopped, and chopped fronds for garnish (optional)
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- One 14-ounce can crushed, diced or cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken bone broth
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas, half the can very finely chopped or mashed
- 1 ½ cups any short-cut pasta (about ½ pound)
- 4 to 5 cups escarole or stemmed flat kale or green chard, chopped
- Grated Parm or pecorino cheese
In a deep skillet, heat EVOO over medium-high heat, add pancetta if using and render 3 minutes. Add onions, fennel, garlic and rosemary, season with salt and red pepper flakes, cover and sweat a couple of minutes. Add the stock and 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then add the whole and finely chopped chickpeas (use a food processor or chop by hand). Add tomatoes and bring to a full rolling boil, then add pasta and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook pasta to al dente, 8 to 10 minutes, then wilt in greens. Stir in a big handful of pecorino. Top with the fennel fronds and more cheese and serve.