Chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzos, have played a notable part in the Italian kitchen for hundreds of years. They are of Oriental origin and due to the fact that they require high temperatures during summer months, they are mainly grown in Southern Italy. When you use them in cooking, it is best to buy them canned. The commercial canning process doesn’t harm the flavor or diminish the nutritional value. You can also buy dry chickpeas and soak them yourself. In this case, make sure the chickpeas haven’t passed their use-by date, because the old ones won’t soften no matter how long they soak. Most chickpea recipes are actually winter recipes that require long cooking times. These dishes were ideal in the olden times when a pot simmering on a wood-fired stove kept the entire kitchen warm. If you are a true fan, also try Ligurian polenta-like panissa; or minestrone di ceci which is a creamy, hearty chickpea soup from the Abruzzo; or stewed chickpeas like in ceci in umido. Don’t forget about ceci alla pisana a.k.a. chick peas with greens and anchovies from Pisa, or cavezune which is ravioli from the Gargano peninsula made with a chocolaty chickpea filling.
1 onion, sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2-4 dry chilies, deseeded and finely chopped
200 gr/ 7 oz smoked pancetta, in cubes (optional)
500 gr/ 17 oz passata di pomodoro
350 gr/ 12 1/3 oz chickpeas
1 l/ 4 1/3 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
fresh flat leaf parsley
mezze maniche pasta
Puree the onion, garlic and chili in a blender until smooth. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry this smooth mix for a couple of minutes. Add the pancetta and continue for another 3 or 4 minutes.
Add the passata di pomodoro and cook for another 5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and cook still for further 5 minutes.
Like when cooking risotto, add some vegetable broth at a time letting the sauce simmer down and thicken for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with boiling salted water. Drain the pasta and mix it with the ready sauce. Garnish each plate with some fresh flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately.