Friday, August 7, 2009

Solar Pasta e Ceci

I had completely forgot about this traditional Roman soup until we recently watched the classic Italian film "I Soliti Ignoti" (English title "Big Deal on Madonna Street"). It's a caper movie where a group of hapless thieves sit down to a bowl of Pasta e Ceci after their disastrous attempt to break into a pawn shop. Good Italians that they are, they immediately began discussing the merits and faults of the soup. Since then it's been a regular in our meal rotation. It is basically Pasta e Fagioli with chickpeas instead of beans, and it is a solar cooking favorite.

Pasta e Ceci (chickpea and pasta soup)

1/2 lb dry chickpeas
1 TBS olive oil
1 leek, white and pale green part only, chopped (or 1 small onion)
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped tomatoes, preferably Pomì
1 cup small tubular pasta such as ditalini
2 TBS chopped fresh rosemary
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Soak chickpeas overnight. Drain, put chickpeas in a dark pot with water and place in solar oven. While chickpeas are cooking prepare the soup base. Heat olive oil in large heavy dutch oven. Add leek, carrots, celery and garlic and saute until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and let simmer for about 20 minutes. When chickpeas are cooked remove from solar oven. Set aside 1/2 cup chickpeas add remaining to dutch oven with the cooking liquid. Off the heat blend with a emersion blender. At this point if you are ready to eat the soup and there's still enough sun you can put the dutch oven in the solar oven cover and bring to a slow boil. If soup is too thick add some water. Add the pasta, reserved chickpeas, salt and pepper to taste. When the pasta is ready, take the dutch oven out of the solar oven. Add rosemary and balsamic vinegar. Serve with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. If it's too late to cook the pasta in the solar oven complete the soup on the stovetop. Do not cook the pasta until you are ready to eat or it will get soggy. Serves 4 to 6.

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