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X Italian Pasta Dishes
pasta e ceci
Paste e Ceci or Tubetti 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

1 package of tubetti (450 g)

For cooking pasta

A big pot of water
1/2 tablespoon salt

For the Red Sauce

2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound diced fresh pork belly, cut into pieces (about 1 1/2 inches long X 3/4 inch wide)
1/2 pound air-dried Italian sausage, sliced

3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes (about 10 large tomatoes)
1 or 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 dried sweet red peppers, chopped up into small pieces about 1 inch long by 1/2 inch wide (OR crushed between one's fingers)
1 or 2 cans chickpeas (19 oz. each, drained) OR 1 or 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked the next morning till they are done etc.


a bunch of fresh parsley (with stems) for sauce, later removed and about 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped for garnish


4 or 5 fresh basil leaves (uncut) for adding to sauce
1 or 2 tablespoons basil leaves, finely chopped for garnishing individual bowls

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon hot chillies (optional)


To make the sauce:

1a 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.

1b. Version II. Place the olive oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic.

2. Add the chopped up dried sweet red pepper and continue frying for two or three minutes.

3. 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....].

4. Continue frying for another 2 minutes or so.

5. Add the diced fresh tomatoes. If using, add the tomato paste and incorporate well.

6. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Add fresh basil leaves (if using) or fresh parsley (if using). Or, add dried basil (if using).

8. Cook the tomato sauce for about 5 minutes.

9. If using canned chickpeas drain the liquid in which they were stored in, and rinse under cold water. If using dried chickpeas, drain the water they were soaked in and rinse under cold water.

10. Add the chickpeas to the tomato sauce.

11. Cook the sauce on medium heat for about 15 minutes, making sure all the ingredients are well mixed.

12. When sauce is cooked remove the cooked parsley or basil leaves (Fresh herbs will be used to garnish the dishes).

To Prepare the Pasta

13. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

14. Cook the tubetti in rapidly boiling salted water until they are done (Follow package directions).

15. Drain the tubetti and place in a large bowl.

16. Add about 1/4 of the sauce to the tubetti and mix well.

17. Place the tossed tubetti in individual plates and top with more sauce.

18. Garnish with finely chopped fresh parsley OR finely chopped fresh basil.

19. Serve warm [No grated Parmesan needed].


Even prior to World War II no one made tubetti at home. Well, at least not in the Molise countryside. The local shops did sell this pasta, and it was very popular. Because it cost more per serving than home-made pasta, this short pasta had more status than tagliatelle or cavatelli. I suppose the fact that the store-bought pasta pieces were uniform in size added to its appeal. In any case, the poorest of the poor avoided buying tubetti, but those with more funds obviously enjoyed serving this style of pasta to their families.... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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