Mar 16, 2009

Mamma's Pasta e Ceci

Dinner and a Movie, this month's installment features 1987 Norman Jewison hit Moonstruck. In Italy this film was called Stregata dalla Luna.

I remember watching this film and drooling over its many food-related images. The sequences taking place in Brooklyn restaurants, the fornaio oven (tended by a young Nicholas Cage) churning warm Italian rosette buns and sfilatini baguettes, home-cooked meals and one particular scene where Cher and Olympia Dukakis (playing her mother) prepare breakfast during a heated conversation: eggs fried in a crumbless slice of sourdough bread, a dash of tomato concentrate, a jug of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling strips of greasy bacon. Hardly the Italian iconic prima colazione that first comes to mind, but oh, so yummy looking. Most of the comedy’s dialogue scenes take place with the family gathered around the kitchen table, and Grandpa dispensing wisdom and humor with each bite.

pasta e ceci italian chickpea soup

I wish to honor that same homey Italian family tradition that fills my household, by contributing my mother's famed Pasta e Ceci. The Italian thick creamy chickpeas mixed in with pasta is among my favorite soups for all seasons. A steaming bowl can replete lost energy and warmth in frosty winter nights; while the chilled version refreshes with each spoonful during sweltering Roman summers. My mom's rendition is by far the best I've ever tasted, and I know my ceci.

4 cans (200gr / 14 oz each) chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), rinsed
2 tbsp unbleached flour, leveled
2 garlic cloves
2 sprigs rosemary
1 liter (1 quart) vegetable stoc
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pot of water
150 g (3/4 cup) maltagliati or mixed pasta

Prepare a mazzetto odoroso (or, bouquet garni) by placing the rosemary and the garlic in a knotted cheesecloth or gauze.
Whir one of the cans of chickpeas in the blender and set aside.
Put all the ingredients – except the stock and blended ceci – in a large stewpot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer lightly for 1 hour over a gentle flame, seasoning to taste.

In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons each of olive oil and flour and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly over very low heat. Add 1 ladle of vegetable stock to obtain a creamy, white sauce. Stir this into the simmering soup, along with the blended chickpeas. Remove the herbal pouch and add the pasta, cooking it directly in the soup, until done. Serve piping hot with a thread of raw olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Note: For the cold, summer version, simply reserve 2 cups of creamy broth aside, cool the soup down before refrigerating, and then add the re-hydrating broth back before serving (otherwise the pasta will continue to absorb the liquid long after cooking and become too cement-like).

Loretta Castorini: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last confession.
Priest: What sins have you to confess?
Loretta Castorini: Twice I took the name of the Lord in vain, once I slept with the brother of my fiancee, and once I bounced a check at the liquor store, but that was really an accident.
Priest: Then it's not a sin. But... what was that second thing you said, Loretta?


  1. Mmmm. Went to No Recipes to see how someone can host an online dinner and movie. But between his post and yours, I just ended up HUNGRY and thinking only about food. Didn't see what I was looking for.

  2. Oh, I loved, loved, loved that movie - I fell deeply in love with the one-armed Nicholas Cage! I went to see it at the cinema with my sister, ah, happy days.. smile.

    (I also adore cooking, especially soups. I may need to return again for this recipe.)

  3. Susan - I think the best thing to do is firstly EAT when hungry, and then email Marc from No Recipes (his email address is on his blog, I'm sure) for details. Buon appetito!

    Shrinky - thank you for stopping by for a bowlful! Please do come back soon, there's more soups and goodies where that came from. Ciao!

  4. ..and this was just on TV last night!

  5. Very effective and evocative writing. I am reading here and there your blog, il prodotto di una mente multiculturale perfettamente bilingue. Complimenti, è un piacere leggerti!

  6. Yes. My mother cooked something like this, similarly delicious.

  7. I had to look up the pea word, it is Kichererbsen in German (giggly peas). I love your recipes, and I also loved the movie, and aren`t kitchens just the best place for discussions and food and laughter?! I enjoy your blog very much, Lola!
    Tell me what your two other languages are, beside Italian and English. Come to my kitchen now, and we`ll do some German!

  8. Maryann - Coincidence? Serendipity!

    Manofroma - Grazie, ed è per me un piacere (e un onore) ricevere ospiti e lettori come te!

    Rosaria - Nothing like a little homeland comfort food...

    Angela - Giggly peas, how lovely. Whoever said German is a harsh language? I'm told the Goethe love poems are the height of all-around idyllic sentimental expression, you confirm? Thank you, Angela I love your blog too. My other 2 languages are French and Spanish. German's next up...

  9. Food can be so much more than nourishing, can't it? Sensuous. I loved that movie. And I dare say, I would love that dish.

    (Thanks for your kind words my way.)

  10. Erin - Absolutely. When I talk about food, it's mostly about how it feeds the soul. I'm so glad you could come by. You're always welcome.

  11. No stamo a esagerà ...

  12. What a lovely recipe, Lola! My grandma used to make something like this when I was little. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  13. Thank *you*! It was a pleasure participating, and can't wait for next month's installment! Ciao

  14. Giggly peas, indeed! Looking forward to making this, I'm always on the look-out for veggie dishes to cut down on the week's meat content.I love the fact that a cold version exists, too!
    Bouquet garni in English is , believe it or not, bouquet garni! But was I right with my translation of one eye? Un occhio? (See my entry for 'Moonstruck')

  15. Zabeena - thank you for coming over. Un occhio is indeed one eye, but I'll have to hop over to your blog to see in what context your eye is! Ciao and thanks for bouquet garni.