Penne with Ceci and Pancetta

Penne with Ceci

Italian purists will cry out that only pancetta will do for this dish, and never to substitute smoked bacon.  Yes, the flavor’s different, but it’s still good and a new dish is born.  Italian Americans will substitute if the right ingredient from the home country isn’t available.  Isn’t that what immigrant food is all about?

  • ½ cup dried chick peas (ceci) or 1 15-oz can cooked chick peas
  • 4 oz pancetta (Italian Bacon) or smoked bacon
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ green onion chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • ½ tsp – 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 8 oz dried penne rigate
  • 1 tbsp each minced fresh rosemary and sage (or 1 tsp each dried)
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Soak dried chick peas overnight in 2 cups water.  Bring them to boil in a pot large enough to add the pasta later, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for one hour or until just short of al dente (skip this step if using canned chickpeas)

While chick peas are simmering cut up bacon, vegetables and herbs.  Put bacon and vegetables in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until vegetables are soft and most of the fat has rendered.  Do not allow bacon to go brown and crispy.  Add tomatoes, wine and red pepper flakes.  Bring to boil and then turn down the heat and simmer uncovered over low heat for about 45 minutes or until thick and chunky and most of the liquid has boiled away. Stir occasionally.

When chick peas have finished simmering and are just short of al dente, add six cups of water to the chick pea pot and bring it to a boil.  ( If using canned chickpeas, just boil the pasta in its own pot and add chickpeas later).  Add oil and pasta and boil rapidly, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking, for nine minutes or till just al dente.  If using canned chickpeas, add drained chickpeas to pasta during the last minute of cooking.  Drain pasta and chickpeas and add them to the sauce, stirring well.  Sprinkle with herbs.  Spoon into serving dishes and top with grated cheese.  A nice green salad with sliced pears and dried cranberries and  a balsamic vinaigrette makes a nice accompaniment.

Makes 6 servings.

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