Skip to content

Pasta e Fagioli….or Pasta e Ceci

April 10, 2011

The ingredients in Arthur Schwartz’s recipe for Pasta e Fagioli in Naples at Table are very humble – beans and pasta are the main ingredients. When combined, however, as they are in this classic dish from Naples, they become a comforting meal that is full of flavor. It makes you think you are in an Italian trattoria.

The night before making it, I soaked some chickpeas and then cooked them the next day. Ready to prepare Pasta e Fagioli, I pulled out Naples at Table and realized that the recipe calls for cannellini beans, not chickpeas! Oops! I had so wanted to make a classic version of Pasta e Fagioli.

I turned to Frank Fariello’s excellent blog, Memorie de Angelina. Frank has a recipe for Pasta e Fagioli and he also uses cannellini beans. However, he points out in his notes that other beans can be used, and chickpeas are a wonderful choice! Yay! When made with chickpeas it is called Pasta e Ceci! That works for me!

You could use canned beans, although this is one recipe where cooking your beans really does make a difference. The cooked dried beans are much more tender than canned beans; they have a better texture for this dish. The chickpea broth from cooking the beans is so fantastically delicious – I can just eat it with a spoon. It contributes a lot to the excellence of this Pasta e Ceci. So…for the best flavor and texture, get dried beans and cook them. 😉

At a typical meal in Italy, Pasta e Fagioli, or Pasta e Ceci, would be served as a Primo (first course) followed by the Secondo (the main course, usually featuring meat). At our house, though, it made a fantastic vegetarian dinner served with bread and a salad!


Such a humble-looking dish, yet so delicious – Pasta e Ceci!


Pasta e Fagioli, or Pasta e Ceci

(Adapted from a recipe in Naples at Table, by Arthur Schwartz)


(print the recipe)


Serves 4


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus ¼ – ½ cup more to make the Hot Pepper Oil*

2 large cloves garlic, finely minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 canned and peeled plum tomatoes

½ teaspoon salt (perhaps a bit more if your tomatoes are unsalted)

2½ – 3 cups cooked cannellini beans or chickpeas, with enough of their cooking liquid to barely cover them

6 ounces large tubular pasta, like rigatoni, or ziti, penne, or ditali

Hot Pepper Oil, for serving


Hot Pepper Oil

Break 1 or 2 dried hot chilies (any variety), seeds and all, into ¼ – ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Let soak for several hours.

Hot Pepper Oil


Cooking the Beans

Makes almost 3 cups.

Put 1 cup cannellini beans or chickpeas in a large pot. Cover with water so there is at least 2 inches of water over the beans and soak overnight.

If you don’t want to soak them overnight, cover with water so there is at least 2 inches of water over the beans. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let them sit, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain the beans and cover with plenty of water again. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Add 1½ teaspoons salt and simmer until tender, 10–15 minutes more. (Optional: Add a sprig of rosemary when you add the salt. Remove when the beans are done.)

Drain the beans, reserving enough broth to cover them.

Cooked chickpeas, just covered with cooking broth


Rigatoni and chickpeas ready to be transformed into Pasta e Ceci

Pasta e Ceci

1. Heat a large pot of water for the pasta.

2. Put the ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a 2½ – 3 quart pan.


3. When the garlic starts sizzling (don’t let it brown), crush the tomatoes into the pan with your hands. (Or cut the tomatoes up roughly and add them.)

Three canned tomatoes ready to be crushed into the pan


4. Add the salt and simmer the tomatoes for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon, if necessary.


5. Add the beans and their liquid, and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a spoon, smash a few of the beans against the side of the pan.


6. While the beans are simmering, add a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until it is almost done. (My rigatoni box said to cook for 10 minutes; I cooked it for 8 minutes.)

7. When the pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the beans; stir and cook for about 2 minutes so the pasta can finish cooking and absorb some of the flavors. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water if it seems too dry.

8. Cover the pot, remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes.

9. Serve and pass the Hot Pepper Oil at the table to drizzle on top of individual servings.

Molto squisito!! (Very delicious!)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2011 1:50 pm

    Oh my, I do wish I was in an Italian Trattoria but you’ve just created the next best thing;-)

    • April 10, 2011 4:31 pm

      Thanks, Patty! If we can’t be in Italy, we can try to recreate it at home, right? 😉

  2. Laura permalink
    April 11, 2011 4:12 pm

    I’m glad it’s easy, because it sure was delicious! 🙂

  3. April 12, 2011 8:50 am

    An old time favorite of ours and yours looks fantastic!

  4. April 14, 2011 9:23 pm

    Oh Ryan would just love this! He doesn’t eat any meat and comes from an Italian background. I will be making this for us soon! Thank you for sharing with me…and for making me smile. Your words are a source of joy in my life, and in the lives of many others. I hope you have a happy Friday. The weekend is almost here, and I’m ready for it!

    • April 21, 2011 4:19 pm

      Oh, I think Ryan would love this, Monet! It would be so good with one of your home-baked breads! 🙂


  1. Pasta e Fagioli oder Pasta e Ceci | Italienische Rezepte – Marzapane

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: