Sunday, January 26, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Pasta E Ceci (Pasta and Chickpeas) l Preparing Dried Beans

Along with the bills January, in the northern hemisphere, means winter.
And it’s been a brutally cold winter this year.
This is a soup recipe, great for making one feel warm and toasty.
Soup is also good for the budget.
The extra water is supposed to fill you up.

Back in 2010 I posted about a few recipes in Entertaining with The Sopranos.
About is the operative word - no ingredients, amounts and instructions.
I really thought instructions weren’t necessary, as I grew up with it as a staple.
Not everyone was so lucky.

Chickpeas were a basic food in Ma’s house.
Maybe your Ma called them something else.
Other names for chickpeas are garbanzo bean, ceci bean, channa and Bengal gram.
Chickpeas have a high protein content, and are very good for you.


Back to budget cooking…
Pancetta is Italian bacon made of pork belly meat that is salt cured and peppery.
Most grocers don’t even carry the stuff.  Don’t panic.
Some nice thick sliced bacon or ham would do.  Add some pepper.

Carmela's recipe calls for 8 ounces spaghetti, broken into bite-sized pieces.  
Don't go to any trouble.  Elbow macaroni will do just fine.

About the fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves…
If we’re talking budget, dried is cheaper, and you probably have some already.
Dried has a more concentrated flavour, so 1/8 Cup should do it.
Suit yourself.

If you're trying to use dried chickpeas, they'll need a little prep work in advance.
One Cup of dried chickpeas will give you an amount equal to about 3 Cups canned.
Dried chickpeas need to cook 1–2 hours, but will turn to mush when cooked longer. 
If soaked for 12–24 hours, cooking time can be shortened by around 30 minutes.


Preparing Dried Beans

Place in a bowl
1 Cup dried chickpeas
enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
Let stand for 4 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
If the beans appear above water level, add more water.

Drain the beans and place them in a pot with fresh water to cover by 1/2 inch.
Over low heat, bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and simmer about 1/2 to 2 hours (see above).
If the beans appear above water level, add more water.
When the beans are soft, drain and use as canned.


                        Pasta E Ceci

Serves 4 to 6

In a dutch oven pour
1/4 Cup olive oil
Add
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
Cook, stirring over medium heat, for 10 minutes.
You want the meat to be lightly browned.
Add
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper
Cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden.
Add
2  16-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
2 Cups canned tomatoes, chopped, with the liquid
1/4 Cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Bring to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes. 
Crush some of the chickpeas with the back of a spoon.
Add
5 Cups water
Bring to a simmer.
Add
8 ounces spaghetti, broken into bite-sized pieces
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
Add some water if the pasta starts sticking to the bottom of the pot.
You want something resembling chunky soup.

Let cool slightly before serving.
Serve with
coarsely ground black pepper (or not)

Want another bean recipe?

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