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X Italian Pasta Dishes
taccuzzelle e ceci
Pasta e Ceci or Taccuzzelle [Tazzozzelle] e Ceci ( Pasta with Chickpeas)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time of the year
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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For Pasta Dough [see "Everyday Pasta Dough" for recipe]
4 cups flour
Water as much as needed (about 1 1/4 cup cups)

For Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound diced fresh pork belly, cut into pieces (about 1 1/2 inches long X 3/4 inch wide)

2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 dried sweet red peppers, chopped up into small pieces about 1 inch long by 1/2 wide (OR crushed between one's fingers)

2 cans chickpeas (19 oz. each) OR 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked the next morning till they are done etc.
1/2 pound sliced air-dried Italian sausage [If using fresh pork belly, sausage is not necessary -- it's one or the other]


about 2 teaspoons Salt
about 1 teaspoon pepper

about 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
about 2 teaspoons dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 teaspoon hot chillies (optional)


1. Make "Everyday pasta dough."

2. Cut strips of dough about 10 inches long and 1/2 inches wide (The length of the pasta strip does not matter, as it will be re-cut).

3. Cut the strips of dough into tiny squares about 1/2 inch wide by 1/2 inch long. And/or into rectangles -- 1 inch long by 1/2 inch wide (The pasta pieces do not need to be uniform).

4. Lightly flour the pasta squares to avoid them from sticking together.

To make the sauce:

5a. Version I: Render some of the fat from the pork belly which have been cut into small pieces, making sure that the pieces are crispy but not overly-crispy.

5b. Version II. Place the olive oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic.

6. Add the chopped onion and fry for a few minutes.

7. Add the chopped up dried sweet red pepper and continue frying for a few more minutes (until the chopped onion is a nice golden color).

8. Add the slices of air-dried Italian sausage and mix well (If using fresh pork belly air-dried Italian sausage is not necessary -- it's one or the other. Well, it is if one is following the traditional method, but in cooking there is no right and wrong....].

9. Continue frying for another 2 minutes or so.

10. Place the chickpeas [canned or dried chickpeas that have been soaked overnight and cooked in water until "done"] in the pan with the sauted onions, garlic and dried sweet red peppers.

11. Season with salt and pepper. Add dried rosemary if using. If using fresh rosemary, add half to the sauce, and retain the remainder to garnish individual bowls. If not using rosemary add one quarter of the chopped fresh parsley. Retain the rest of the parsley for garnishing.

12. Cook the sauce on medium heat for about 15 minutes, making sure all the ingredients are well mixed. If the sauce starts to burn, add a touch of water.

To Prepare the Pasta

13. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

14. Cook the taccuzzelle in rapidly boiling salted water for about about 3 to 4 minutes (Technically the taccuzzelle can be removed once they rise to the surface, but most cooks let them cook a bit longer).

15a. Version I. Drain the taccuzzelle in a strainer and let all the water out.

15b. Version II. Drain the taccuzzelle, reserving about a cup of the water the taccuzzelle were cooked in.

16. Place the taccuzzelle in a large bowl.

17a. Version I. Toss with half the onion, garlic and dried sweet red pepper sauce. Mix well.

17b. Version II. If using some of the water from the cooked taccuzzelle add the water to the sauce, prior to tossing the pasta.

18. Place the tossed taccuzzelle in individual plates and top with more sauce.

19. Garnish with finely chopped parsley OR fresh rosemary (if using).

20. Serve warm.


If I am to believe my mother (and why shouldn't I?) few Southern Italians made spaghetti prior to World War II. At that time individuals living in the countryside did not have pasta makers so making spaghetti was labor-intensive and not worth the trouble. In fact, my mother says she herself never made spaghetti in Italy. However, as soon as she came to Canada and got herself a pasta maker (By the late 1950s they were available everywhere) she did make spaghetti, as did many other women of her generation. Ironically, in the late 1950s native-born French-Canadians often referred to Italians as "les spaghetti" -- obviously the term was not an endearment, but a put down. Who was to know (Not I!) that few Southern Italians actually ate spaghetti in their home country! Odd, it only took 50 years for me to find out that spaghetti was not part of my cultural heritage, so I couldn't have been "un spaghetti" (That's assuming, of course, one is what one eats, and if one isn't what one eats, who knows what anyone is?).... Now I'm rambling... In any case, prior to World War II, most cooks in Molise, favored taccozze, tagliatelle, sagnatelle and cavetelli over spaghetti. Taccuzzelle, which were the smallest of the lot, were very popular. However, because they were easy to do they had less status and were often seen as the food of the poor, or worse, yet: pig food. In North America one says "I ate like a pig" meaning "I ate too much." In pre World War II one said one ate like a pig -- meaning, one ate food that was given to pigs (or food that was only fit for pigs). Frankly, they were dead wrong (If only they knew!). Home-made pasta, regardless of its shape, is food fit for a king (Or a queen)! The taste of fresh home-made pasta is so much better than store-bought dried pasta, that if anyone is eating pig food, it's those of us living in North America.... Photo: by the contributor.

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