Chef Angela Cicala’s Oh-So-Comforting 5-Ingredient Pasta Recipe

Perfectly designed for when “you’re stuck inside for the long haul.”

Photo by Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé

As coronavirus spreads, restaurants are pivoting to takeout and delivery, relying on gift cards to serve essentially as micro-loans, and shutting down completely. In lieu of our typical restaurant coverage, we’re going to be bringing you some simple, pantry staple recipes from chefs around the city. Up first? Angela Cicala of Cicala at the Divine Lorraine.

Here’s what she had to say about it.

Pasta Ceci, (affectionately known as ‘pasta cheech” in Philly), is a dish both Joe and I grew up eating which was always made from bits of mismatched dried pastas that were left over from random soups and other dinners which you never had enough of one type to make another full meal with.  My grandmother used to clean out the pantry once a month and make pasta ceci especially in winter, when nobody wanted to hike through snow to the store. 

In Italy, this dish originated in winter as well, when you were inside for the long haul. Beans were plentiful and were always available because they were dried and could be stored until needed and then soaked when ready to cook. (Now we have luxury of canned beans, so much easier!) It is a comforting and simple dish with lots of flavor, easy to execute, and can be made with just a few ingredients. Enjoy it!

Pasta Ceci

(Makes 4 servings)

8-10 oz. dried pasta (short penne, dittalini, or broken maccheroni, or a combination of any dried pasta you have on hand. Should be around the same size.)
1 15-oz. can of chickpeas or cannelini beans.
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chicken, vegetable, or beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy!)
1 small sprig whole rosemary (optional)
Note: If you do not have stock, reserve 1 cup of water from cooked pasta and use in place of stock.
  1. In a medium pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Once boiling add four tablespoons kosher salt (or if using Morton’s use 2 tablespoons.) Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. While water is heating, peel garlic and chop into thin slices. Set aside.
  3. Open can of beans and drain liquid.  Empty half of the beans into a bowl and mash slightly using the back of a fork. Set aside. Keep remaining beans whole.
  4. In a wide, non-stick pan while still cold, add 1/2 cup olive oil and chopped garlic. Cook over medium heat until just fragrant, and add whole sprig of rosemary. Reduce to low heat.
  5. Add beans and stir gently. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flake.  Let simmer two minutes then add stock.  Let cook until slightly thickened and 3/4 of the stock has absorbed.
  6. Add cooked pasta to the pan of beans and stir gently with wooden spoon or spatula over medium heat until beans and pasta are incorporated, about 5 minutes or until the liquid in the pan is reduced and forms a creamy sauce. Taste and add more salt if necessary, drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil over pasta before serving, and finish with some grated parmigiana or pecorino cheese.