Pasta e Ceci Alla Romana (Pasta with Chickpeas) is a light, hearty, and healthy pasta dish. Aldente gemelli pasta is tossed with garlic, lemon, plenty of crushed red pepper flakes and just enough starchy pasta water to make a light sauce. It’s also packed with crispy chickpeas, sweet roasted garlic and tender spinach leaves.
Pasta e Ceci Alla Romana (Pasta with Chickpeas)
While my love for creamy pasta is certainly no secret, the pasta dishes that truly grab my attention are often the ones that are light, full of hidden flavor, and won’t weigh me down. Pasta with Chickpeas is just that. This classic Italian pasta dish, more commonly known in Italy as Pasta e Ceci Alla Romana is typically made with tomatoes but our version is even more simple with hints of lemon, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic.
Of course, as the name implies, the star ingredient of pasta with chickpeas, is of course, chickpeas. Crispy chickpeas. Crispy chickpeas that are irresistibly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Salty. And totally addictive. I actually like to make a double batch of them when I make this Pasta e Ceci Alla Romana (Pasta with Chickpeas) just so I can snack on the chickpeas later.
Also involved in this Pasta with Chickpeas – lots of hearty baby spinach leaves (my favorite!), a whole head of sweet roasted garlic, plenty of nutty parmesan cheese, and juuuust enough salty, starchy pasta water to create a super delicate sauce.
Let’s get to it.
Ingredients in Pasta with Chickpeas
Olive oil. To make chickpeas crispy, you need lots of olive oil. Any kind will do.
Chickpeas. Canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
Spices. We keep things simple with the crispy chickpeas, just a little bit of garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Garlic. Alongside the chickpeas, we are going to roast some garlic. I use a whole head with the skins on,.
Gemelli. I love this fun shape. Because it’s a more compact shape, it has a bit more texture than other short pastas. However, these days we’re all about using what we’ve got, so you could really use any short pasta.
Lemon juice. A little bit of lemon juice adds a nice acidic kick to the pasta with chickpeas. It’s also a nice compliment to the spinach, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
Red pepper flakes. For a little spice! Add as much or as little as you want here – we like it spicy!
Pasta water. This is what is going to make the “sauce.” After the noodles cook, make sure to save a good amount of the water. I typically use about 1/2 cup of pasta water, but you may need more or less depending on your preference.
Parmesan. Lots of parmesan cheese. Parmigiano reggiano to be exact. I really like to use Parmigiano reggiano here because it melts beautifully and adds a really nutty, cheesy element to the pasta with chickpeas. If you can’t find it or don’t have it, an aged parmesan will also work well.
How to make Pasta e Ceci Alla Romana (Pasta with Chickpeas)
Roast the chickpeas. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the chickpeas and garlic (skin on!) to a bowl along with some olive oil, garlic powder, and salt. Spread on a large baking sheet, making sure the chickpeas are evenly dispersed so they don’t steam.
Roast for about 18 minutes until the chickpeas are crispy and the garlic is soft. Keep in mind, they will crisp up even more once they come out of the oven.
Cook the pasta. While the chickpeas roast, bring a large pot of water to a rolling bowl. Season with salt. When the chickpeas are about 2-3 minutes from being done, cook the pasta. Cook ONLY until the pasta is aldente. Save about 3/4 cup of the starchy pasta water and then drain the pasta.
Finish the pasta. Add the pasta back to the same pot along with the lemon juice, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Toss to combine. Add parmesan cheese. Toss until cheese has melted. Add spinach. Continue to toss until the spinach wilts. Add crispy chickpeas and roasted garlic. Toss one more time. If needed, add more starchy pasta water to loosen the “sauce” up.
Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parmesan cheese.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Be sure to cook the pasta only until aldente! You want it to have a bite.
- If you don’t have/can’t find gemelli pasta, you can use small or medium shells, bow ties, cavatappi, or any short pasta.
- If you like spice, add more crushed red pepper flakes!
- Never underestimate the powder of starchy pasta water! It’s the only ingredient that coasts the pasta with chickpeas and creates a sauce of sorts, so don’t leave it out.
- Make a double batch of crispy chickpeas so you have some to snack on. 😉
Other light pastas we love!
- This Baked Cauliflower Gnocchi with Chicken Sausage and Pesto has only five ingredients! Everything is cooked on one sheet pan until the gnocchi is super crispy and the sausage is brown. It’s drizzled with pesto and served. So simple and delicious!
- Our One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta is creamy, simple and SO delicious. We like to serve it alongside seared chicken or Salmond for a complete meal.
- Easy Shrimp Pappardelle is another 5-ingredient meal we love. This simple pasta is packed with tender shrimp, silky noodles, and a super easy garlicky sauce.
- 14 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 head of garlic, cloves seperated with the skin on
- 1 lb gemelli pasta
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup pasta water, divided
- 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- stock pot
- sheet pan
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Add chickpeas, garlic cloves, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and garlic powder to a medium bowl. Toss to combine. Spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast until crispy, about 18 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through cooking. Remove skin from the garlic cloves.
- While the chickpeas roast, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with salt. When the chickpeas are just a few minutes shy of being done, add in the pasta. Cook until aldente. Reserve about a cup of starchy cooking liquid. Drain pasta.
- Add the pasta back to the pot along with the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, remaining salt, and 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss. Sprinkle in parmesan cheese and toss again. Add another 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss until cheese has melted. Add in spinach and more cooking liquid if you need it. Toss until spinach leaves have wilted. When the spinach leaves have wilted, add in chickpeas. Toss one more time. Season to taste with salt and pepper.