Maccheroni coi ceci (Maccaroni with Chickpeas)


Pasta with chickpeas is an Italian classic that dates back probably to the Ancient Roman era. The key to this excellent and filling carbo feast is to cook down the chickpeas, then mash them with oil and garlic so that they make a tasty, rather grainy-in-texture sauce to coat the pasta. Delicious with a chilled tumbler of gutsy Frascati or Marino, as served in those dark, subterranean drinking dens of the Colli Albani outside of Rome.

1 lb thick, ribbed maccaroni

6 tablespoons olive oil

5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

2 fresh chilies seeded and chopped (or dried peperoncino to taste)

3 or 4 pieces of celery, chopped

2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 cups of coarse spring greens, cavolo nero, or kale, chopped into fairly small pieces

2-3 cups homemade chicken broth or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or wok, and saute the chopped garlic, chillies, and celery until soft. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and about a cup of the broth or stock and allow to simmer gently for about an hour. Add more stock as necessary to keep the mixture fairly liquid. When the chickpeas are nice and tender, mash coarsely (or blend coarsely in a food processor) ensuring that you keep the texture quite grainy. Add another cup of stock, and the greens, kale or cavolo nero and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the maccaroni until al dente. If the chickpea and cabbage mixture needs to be thinned, add a ladle or two of pasta water. When done, drain the pasta and add to the mixture, turn up the heat to fierce, and toss and mix well. Serve immediately, probably without parmesan cheese.

Wine Suggestion One of the best Frascati that you will find outside of Rome is Antonio Pulcini's Colle Gaio Cru from the Colli di Catone estate, a wine with outstanding depth of flavour and concentration. If you can get ahold of a bottle, Paola di Mauro's superb Colle Picchioni Rosso, made in nearby Marino, would also go well. Otherwise, try this gutsy pasta dish with a full-flavoured Trebbiano d'Abruzzo or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo if you prefer a red.

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