There are many recipes for pasta e ceci (aka pasta with chickpeas). The majority that I’ve encountered are brothy, almost souplike. This recipe emphasizes both the chickpeas and the pasta but is equally comforting and a lot creamier than the usual versions. Much of the magic of this dish lies in crushing the chickpeas, so they release their starches and transform the pasta water into a creamy sauce. Some of the chickpeas retain their shape, whereas others turn to delicious mush, and the caramelized lemon lends some chewy tang and brings the pasta back to life post-boiling. It’s incredibly satisfying. If I still need to convince you to make this, know that it was the first meal that I made for my boyfriend, and he has been attached to me ever since. —Andy Baraghani
Serves: 4 (plus—maybe—leftovers, though I doubt it)
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small Meyer or regular lemon, thinly sliced, seeds picked out
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1 rosemary sprig, or 4 thyme sprigs
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound tubular pasta (such as calamarata, paccheri, or rigatoni)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Here’s how to do it, step by step.
Caramelize the lemon
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then throw in a handful of salt (about 1/4 cup).
- While the water is doing its thing, set a separate large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in the olive oil.
- Add the lemon and cook, using tongs to flip the slices until they begin to lightly brown and shrivel up, 6–8 minutes.
- Using the tongs, transfer the caramelized lemon slices to a bowl, leaving the oil in the pot.
Crisp the chikpeas
- Dump the chickpeas into the oil and let them get a little crisp and golden, stirring occasionally, 5–7 minutes.
- Add the shallot and crush the rosemary to release its oil and drop it into the pot.
- Season with salt and lots and lots of pepper and give everything a stir.
- Cook until the shallot is beginning to soften, 3–5 minutes.
Cook the pasta
- Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until almost al dente, about 2 minutes less than what the package suggests (it’ll finish cooking in the sauce).
- Just before the pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups pasta water.
- Add 1 1/2 cups pasta water to the pot with the chickpeas and bring to a simmer, still over medium heat. (This may seem like a lot of liquid, but it will thicken once the remaining ingredients are added.)
- One piece at a time, stir in the butter until the pasta water and butter have become one.
Combine pasta & sauce
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the sauce.
- Cook, stirring often and sprinkling in the Parmesan a little at a time. (Don’t add the cheese all at once, as that can make the sauce split and turn grainy.)
- Keep stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta, about 3 minutes.
- If the sauce looks too thick, add more pasta water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to thin (but know that saucier is ideal because it will thicken as it cools).
Garnish & serve
Turn off the heat and fold in the caramelized lemon. Sprinkle with an almost ridiculous amount of pepper and more Parmesan before serving.
You might know Andy Baraghani for his perspective on healthy eating or for his stunning food photos on Instagram. As a food writer and prolific recipe developer, Andy loves sharing his exceptional culinary skills and food POV with the world.