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This iconic Italian pasta and chickpea soup, pasta e ceci, is as easy as it is delicious! This flavor-filled stew makes a cozy vegetarian lunch or dinner.

Pasta e Ceci Soup
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Pasta e ceci is a traditional Italian “pasta and chickpea soup,” and how we’ve gone this long without making it on the regular is beyond me! Alex and I have devoted years to learning Italian classics, honing the perfect margherita pizza and cacio e pepe. So we’re thrilled to unveil this recipe! This stew is full of big Italian flavors: intense vibrant tomato, leafy Tuscan kale, and a creamy broth made with Parmesan rind. Swimming in it all are the chickpeas and pasta of the soup’s title, making it hearty and filling. It’s a stunner and joins our other Italian soup favorites tortellini soup, ribollita and minestrone. How to make it? Andiamo!

What’s in pasta e ceci?

There are hundreds of ways to make pasta e ceci, just like American potato salad and coleslaw. This Italian stew is traditionally served in Rome on Tuesdays and Fridays, according to their unofficial weekly meal schedule. You’ll see it scrawled on restaurant blackboards as the daily special. Of course, every outfit makes it differently, depending on the week and what’s on hand.

The only real constant in pasta e ceci is the pasta and chickpeas. The broth is often tomato-based but doesn’t have to be, and sometimes it contains anchovies. The pasta can be round or tubes or roughly cut squares. Really, anything goes here! Here’s what we chose to use in our pasta e ceci:

  • Onion, garlic, & Tuscan kale
  • Canned fire roasted tomatoes & tomato paste
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable broth
  • Chickpeas
  • Pasta: any type of short cut (we used rigatoni)
  • Fresh basil
  • Spices: Dried oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan rind
Pasta e Ceci Soup

Fire roasted tomatoes have the best flavor

You’ll notice that we often call for fire roasted tomatoes in our Italian recipes, most notably our best pizza sauce. And there used in this pasta e ceci soup. Why? You can absolutely taste the difference. Fire roasted canned tomatoes have a sweet flavor right out of the can. So you don’t have to spend hours simmering your soup! It tastes great right away.

There are lots of brands of fire roasted tomatoes out there. If you can’t find them: just buy the best quality canned tomatoes you can find!

Pasta e Ceci Soup

Why to add a Parmesan rind to soup!

This pasta e ceci is the first of our Italian soup recipes where we’ve called for a Parmesan rind. First off: what’s a Parmesan rind? It’s the actual rind off a block of Parmesan cheese. Buy it in the store in a block, and once you open it it’s good for about 6 weeks. Once you’ve shaved off all you can, you’re left with a hard rind of cheese.

The Italians are always inventing great ways to use up things, like stale bread in ribollita (bread soup) or panzanella (bread salad). So of course they had the idea to throw a Parmesan rind into soup! Simmering a soup with a Parmesan rind makes for a rich and creamy broth. The amount of flavor from simmering a dried up rind is incredible!

Substitute for a Parmesan rind in soup

If you don’t have a Parmesan rind laying around (which we often don’t!), here’s a substitute: add grated or shredded Parmesan cheese right to the soup broth. The only drawback with this method is that you’ll have some stringy Parmesan cheese stuck to the bottom of the soup pot after simmering. It’s to be expected: simply discard it when serving.

Italian chickpea soup

What to serve with pasta e ceci

Once you’ve simmered up a pot of this pasta e ceci, you’ll be amazed at the tangy, creamy and herby flavor of the broth! The pasta soaks up the broth too, making it more like dumplings than al dente pasta. It’s truly an Italian masterpiece. Here a few ideas for serving to make for the perfect vegetarian Italian meal:

Italian pasta and chickpea stew

More Italian soup recipes

Italian-style soups are bursting with flavor and so satisfying! They’re one of our favorite ways to make a filling vegetarian or vegan dinner. Here are some of our best Italian soup recipes:

This pasta e ceci recipe is…

Vegetarian. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, omit the Parmesan cheese.

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Pasta e Ceci Soup

Pasta e Ceci (Italian Chickpea Soup)


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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
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Description

This iconic Italian pasta and chickpea soup, pasta e ceci, is as easy as it is delicious! This flavor-filled stew makes a cozy vegetarian lunch or dinner.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called Lacinato or dinosaur kale, or cavolo nero)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped basil leaves, plus additional for serving if desired
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups cooked)
  • ½ teaspoon each dried oregano and dried thyme
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan rind or ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese* (omit for vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup short pasta like rigatoni (gluten-free or legume pasta if desired)
  • For the garnish: Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Instructions

  1. Peel and small dice the onion. Mince the garlic. Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 to 6 minutes until the onions are just translucent. Add the garlic and tomato paste and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, tomatoes and juices, chopped basil, drained and rinsed chickpeas, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, Parmesan rind (or grated Parmesan) and kosher salt. Bring it to a simmer, then cook 10 minutes on medium low.
  4. Add the pasta and kale and cook until pasta is just al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Taste and add fresh ground black pepper and more kosher salt to taste. Remove the Parmesan rind. If desired, garnish with torn basil leaves and Parmesan cheese shavings. The soup will continue to thicken as it cools.

Notes

*If you use Parmesan cheese instead of a Parmesan rind, you may end up with some stringy cheese stuck to the bottom of the pot. That’s ok: just discard it when serving!

  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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15 Comments

  1. Helen Nelson says:

    Can I use elbow macaroni for the pasta. That’s what I have.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I made this for my lunch for a couple days next week. I t made enough to freeze half in a quart size mason jar, which I put in the freezer. It came out very tasty, in big part because of the roasted tomatoes, so make sure they are roasted :) I used half chicken stock and half water, to reduce the sodium. Thank you for a recipe keeper.






  3. Jennifer S. says:

    Should the pasta be gluten-free or legume? Would regular rigatoni work fine?

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Great question! It should be regular pasta; you can use GF if that fits your diet. The recipe is updated — thank you!

  4. Jivan Dios says:

    Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try.

  5. Ashley says:

    This was a hit in our house tonight! I happened to have frozen chopped kale (which I don’t normally buy) and it made this soup an easy/fast weeknight meal. Pairs well with homemade sourdough focaccia ;)

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Yum, love the idea of frozen kale for times you don’t have fresh on hand. Sounds delicious with sourdough focaccia — YUM! Thanks for making it.

  6. Nancy says:

    yummy soup, tasty pasta cum chickpea…

  7. Ben says:

    Could you use spinach instead of kale?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Yes!

  8. Jackie says:

    Delicious!! Will definitely make again!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Danielle T. says:

    We received a ton of kale in our misfits box this week, so this recipe posted at a perfect time! Made it today for lunch and it is SO delicious. It was even simple enough to throw together with a toddler and an infant both at my feet!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      So glad you enjoyed it!