Written by Linda Sarris Photos by Luisa Misseri
Although most Italians commonly eat dry pasta at lunchtime, fresh handmade pasta will always be a special treat. In northern Italy, the fresh pasta uses eggs, which gives it that beautiful bright yellow color and aids in the elasticity to stretch out the dough for stuffed pasta like tortellini. In southern Italy, fresh pasta is typically made only with flour and water. The most common shapes being cavatelli and orecchiette. In most of Italy’s more impoverished regions, such as Basilicata or Calabria, their traditional recipes come from the “Cucina Povera” school of thought, always working with low-cost ingredients like beans, vegetables, and minimal quantities of meat, eggs, and cheese.
The recipe we’re featuring today is Lagane e Ceci, a hearty but exquisite vegetarian and vegan handmade pasta dish with chickpeas, garlic, tomato, and chili pepper.
Lagane e Ceci is a regional recipe. Lagane e Ceci is also referred to as the “bandit’s dish” “because the bandits ate lagane and chickpeas.”
Notes from the Chef:
Cover the dry chickpeas with cold water and let them soak at room temperature overnight. The importance of cooking your chickpeas (instead of using a ready-to-use canned version) is that you will use the chickpeas’ liquid instead of broth to help make the sauce for this pasta dish. I also like to take a half cup of chickpeas and puree them in a food processor with a bit of liquid to add a creamier element to the sauce.
Four c. finely ground semolina flour (400g)
One c. hot water
One c. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
extra virgin olive oil
One onion, chopped
14 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
Three cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
One small red chili pepper
fresh thyme or marjoram
How to make Handmade Pasta with Chickpeas, Garlic, and Chili Peppers:
Begin with the chickpeas since this step will take about 45 minutes. Drain your soaked chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan. Add cold water until you have twice the volume of the chickpeas and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the chickpeas cook for about 45 minutes until tender.
While the chickpeas cook, start working on the pasta dough. On a flat surface, mound the semolina flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add about half of the hot water to begin. With a fork or your fingertips, begin to mix the water into the flour edges without breaking the well’s outer wall. Gradually incorporate the flour into the center well until all of it has been added. If you need to add more water, add a little bit at a time. The dough should start to come together into a soft mass but not be sticky at all. Knead the dough, gradually adjusting the flour and water until you have a firm dough with a bit of elasticity. Wrap in plastic wrap and rest for 20 minutes to one hour.
As the chickpeas finish cooking and the pasta rests, make the sauce for the pasta and bring a separate pot of heavily salted water up to a boil. Start by sautéing the onion, garlic, and chili pepper on low heat with a few extra virgin olive oil tablespoons. Stir to ensure the onion and garlic do not burn, and continue cooking until the onions soften and become translucent. At this point, if the chickpeas are ready, add them into the pot and cover them with a spoon or two of the chickpea cooking liquid. Bring it up to a boil and add the whole peeled tomatoes, carefully squeezing each one before adding it to the pot to release the delicious juices inside. Lightly mash the chickpeas with a wooden spoon while cooking to break down into the sauce slightly. If you want to puree a small portion, this will also make the sauce creamier—season to taste with salt and pepper at this point.
Regional Recipe from Basilicata