Pasta che Ciciri - Sicilian Chickpea and Pasta Soup

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We are now used to going from short sleeves strait to winter coats in Sicily. Like last year, until the end of November we were still sitting outside for a coffee or a meal and now we are facing "polar temperatures" with snow in Messina and other parts of Sicily. This drastic change of temperature calls for drastic diet adjustments, so people started cooking traditional winter soups. I made a simple "pasta che ciciri". Sometimes I prefer a creamy chickpea soup, but this time I went for an even more earthy "pasta e ceci".
Chickpeas are delicious, earthy little legumes but, like it or not, they can sometimes take a long cooking time. Soak them overnight and simply keep checking them on the hob and don’t be alarmed if they take longer than you expected. Not that they demand a lot of attention in the meantime – just let them simmer away gently at the back of the hob. And yes, chickpeas you make yourself (like beans and lentils) do taste better than the ones that come in cans. With this in mind, nothing could be simpler than zuppa di ceci.

Ingredients

400g dried chickpeas
1 onion
Pinch bicarbonate of soda (optional)
Salt
An 8-inch (20 cm) sprig of rosemary
1/2 a hot pepper, shredded
Best quality extra virgin olive oil
400 g ditali pasta o sedani (thimble-sized tubular pieces of pasta)

Preparation

Soak chickpeas for 12 hours (i.e. start the day before you want to cook them) in a large bowl of cold water with the bicarbonate of soda (helps tenderise the chickpeas) and a large pinch of salt. Once soaked, drain chickpeas and rinse well. Put them in a large pan and cover abundantly with cold water. Bring pan to the boil and, after scooping up and discarding the foam that rises to the top of the pot, add one medium chopped onion and a spring of rosemary. Just 15-10 minutes before removing from the heat add some salt and fresh chillies. When they're almost done stir in the pasta and cook it too until it's al dente.
As ever, use the best olive oil you can get your hands on. Possibly some amazing Sicilian new 2013 extra virgin olive oil, for example a Cru called Particella 34, which is a monocultivar "Tonda Iblea" extra virgin olive oil produced by Piano Grillo or a great blend Due Sicilie created by Mastri di San Basilio combining "Nocellara del Belice" olives from Western Sicily with and "Moresca" olives from the South East.

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