Recently, a friend of mine shared with me someone’s blog/vacation photos from a trip to Italy, thinking I would appreciate and enjoy seeing them. She was right, of course, even though I let her know that viewing the pictures filled me with uncontrollable nostalgia and a ‘home-away-from-homesickness.’ When I’m not in Italy, I miss it terribly. When I am not in the USA, I miss it terribly. It’s one of the best examples of being perpetually blessed and cursed at the same time.
One picture in particular caught the attention of my friend. She writes, “There is one pic with pasta and chickpeas and an orangy looking tomato sauce… can you tell what that is because I want to eat it really bad. Sorry to have made you miss italy lol.” She’s such an incredible person, I couldn’t resist getting in the kitchen and measuring out each and every ingredient of this longtime family favorite to create a perfect recipe for my dear friend. Of course, in my parents’ house, there are no recipes, but this is one of those dishes we would eat during cold winters as kids – familiar, warming, hearty and true to the Southern region of Italy. I’ve made it myself countless times, and per usual, I have my own take on this classic that my Mother and Aunts have made for me time and time again.
Pasta e Ceci (Pasta and Chick Peas)
1 – 15.5 oz. can Chick Peas/Garbanzo Beans, drained and washed
1 small Onion, minced
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Black Pepper
1/2 tbsp. Sugar
1 lb. box of Medium Shells Pasta
1 small clove minced garlic (Optional – I leave it out because my Dad doesn’t eat garlic. Don’t even get me started on how crazy that sounds)
Begin by heating 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion and sauté for a couple minutes before adding the chick peas. Cook an additional 3 minutes until the onions are soft.Add the salt and pepper and stir, continuing to cook another minute or so.Add the tomato purée and the tablespoon of sugar. Allow to bubble and lower the heat to low.
Simmer on low – COVERED with the lid ajar to allow steam to escape – the sauce is ready in an hour and even better after simmering for two hours. Boil water in another large pot, adding salt after the water boils. Cook the pasta as indicated on the box, drain, and add the entire contents of the sauce to the pasta. Stir to mix and coat the pasta with the sauce.Serve immediately with grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese and an optional sprinkling of fresh basil chiffonade.