While Ina Garten is far and away my favorite Food Network host (oh, to have her barn), Giada De Laurentiis is growing on me by leaps and bounds. Admittedly, I was wary of her at first, mostly because I’d never seen an Italian cook looking that svelte. Then I made a few of her dishes (like the divine Turkey Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing), and everything changed. Girl knows what she’s doing.
My most recent foray into Giadalogy was Pasta e Ceci from her Everyday Pasta cookbook. Serious Eats’ Blake Royer made Jamie Oliver’s version last month, but Giada’s recipe differs enough—and was so tongue meltingly delicious—that I had to post it anyway.
The soup uses similar ingredients—chickpeas, small pasta, and rosemary—but adds pancetta, parmesan, and a sizable helping of thyme for quick, deep flavor. It easily stands on its own as a full meal, and as a bonus, goes easy on the olive oil, making it one of Giada's healthier outings. I had two bowls the first night, and the guilt was only somewhat paralyzing instead of outrageously so.
If you decide to try it, but want to save a few bucks, sub out ditalini for elbow macaroni. It tends to be cheaper, and there’s no real difference taste-wise. Also, if you don’t have cheesecloth on hand, feel free to drop the herbs in and fish out the stems at the end.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to class the soup up a little, truffle oil will propel it from merely wonderful to freaking out-of-this-world. An Italian wine for accompaniment never hurts, either.
Ultimately, I owe Giada a big "thank you"—not just for the food, but for teaching me that skinny people can be slamming cooks, too.
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 large fresh rosemary spring
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
- 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 (14.5 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 3/4 cup ditalini or other small, tubular pasta
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Wrap the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine to make a sachet. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, tomatoes and herb sachet. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the sachet.
Transfer 1 cup of the bean mixture to a blender and reserve. Add the ditalini to the soup pot, cover, and bring the liquid back to a boil. Boil gently until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Puree the reserved bean mixture until smooth, then stir the puree into the boiling soup. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.