Rigatoni pasta with cece and rucola

~ This was simply an ethereal pasta ~

Let’s face it, a wonderful plate of perfectly cooked pasta is one of the most comforting dishes you can make.  And that’s in normal times. To me, that comfort factor is ramped up two-fold given the current situation facing the world.  Therefore, in order to bring some bit of normalcy to my readers,  I’ve created this wonderful Recipe for Pasta con Cece that you simply must try.

The inspiration for this dish came to me while in Rome, though it’s not all that dissimilar from “Pasta with Beans”.  However, this is far superior and really kicks up the flavor and texture.  Let’s get to it!

Chick peas and bread crumbs being toasted

~ One of the keys to this Recipe is slowly toasting the panko ~

Gather Your Ingredients

1 Pound Rigatoni
2 Cans Chick Peas, rinsed well
2 Cups Toasted Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 medium Vidalia Onion, chopped
8 ounces Arugula
2 links pork sausage or 4 ounces Pancetta or Guanciale
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a pan large enough to hold the finished pasta, saute the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil until it begins to soften.  Add the pancetta and lower the flame to low in order to slowly render the fat from the meat. Once this is finished, add the Chick Peas and continue to warm while the pasta cooks.

Chick peas and sausage cooking on the stove

~ Softening up the Chick Peas. Another key to this recipe is developing the various textures. With the back of your wooden spoon, smash about 1 cup worth of chick peas. They will soften further as they cook and then blend with the reserved pasta water to form an amazing sauce. Note: When I made this I had 2 links of leftover sausage I used in place of the pancetta ~

While the chick peas soften, in a separate pan, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and then begin toasting the breadcrumbs.  You can use seasoned or plain breadcrumbs (I used seasoned) but be careful to check your seasoning appropriately depending on which type you use.  Watch the breadcrumbs closely taking care not to let them burn.  Pull them off the heat once they begin browning.  They will cook a bit longer in the pan while off the heat.  You may need to add additional oil as they toast.

Chick peas, sausage and arugula cooking away

~ Here the Arugula has been added to the pan and they are softening before the addition of the pasta ~

As the pasta cooks, retain a least 1 cup of the pasta cooking water for incorporation into the sauce.  A minute or two before the pasta is ready, add the Arugula to the pan.  You can see the finished “condimento” in the picture above.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan.  Toss through completely and then gauge how much water you need to add.  Use a little at a time.  The starch in the water will bind and create a sort of “sauce”.  If you use too much it will be watery.

Rigatoni Pasta with Cece and Arugula

~ The finished dish. Serve the bread crumbs in a warmed bowl with a spoon and let everyone take what they want. Do not toss them into the pasta otherwise they will get soggy ~

Serve the breadcrumbs at the table and sprinkle liberally over the Rigatoni.  Do not add the breadcrumbs to the pan or they will turn into a soggy mess.  The crunch adds amazing texture to the finished dish.

We opened our final bottle of the 2015 Campochiarenti Vernaccia di San Gimignano.   My review from 2017 is still spot on.  This wine hasn’t budged at all.  One of the hallmarks of this great wine is its longevity.  I’d tick it up a point or two this time to 90 points.  See Detailed review and Find this wine.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

~ The 2015 Campochiarenti Vernaccia is a lovely wine we have enjoyed on many occasions. The citrus fruit and minerality in this wine are the perfect compliment to this dish ~

Salute!  Do try this dish and leave your impressions in the comment field.  Oh, and did I mention that you can make this with simple pantry staples too.  You can easily delete the meat and the arugula and still have an amazing pasta.

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