This spicy variation on pasta e ceci will be your new go-to stew during the winter! It's so cozy and full of flavor.
This is your cue to make this creamy gochujang pasta e ceci asap! On tasting the tested recipe, my friend Jessica texted me, "Ok so seriously that was one of the best dishes I have EVER had in my life. IN MY LIFE."
Pasta e ceci, or pasta with chickpeas, is a popular peasant dish found in Southern and Central Italy. There are endless variations of the dish, but typically, it features a brothy, stewy mixture of chickpeas, pasta, chickpea broth, and cheese.
Here, I include the addition of gochujang which offers a spicy, umami flavor to contrast the rich, creamy broth. A quick oil with parsley and garlic brightens the whole dish.
Why You Should Make This Creamy Stew
- It's incredibly nourishing, full of chickpeas, pasta, and creamy broth. And blending half of the chickpeas in their liquid yields a velvety broth without the need for added cream.
- A hint of gochujang gives you the creamy spicy vibes of a vodka-style sauce with a bit more funkiness and complex flavor.
- This recipe uses lots of readily available pantry ingredients and aromatics so you can skip a trip to the grocery store.
- It's truly so delicious. This just might be a new go-to in your weeknight dinner rotation.
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What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a spicy Korean fermented red chili paste made from gochu-garu (Korean chili powder), glutinous rice, fermented soybean powder, and other ingredients. The fermentation process yields a punchy, sweet, and spicy flavor.
When researching this condiment, I learned that it was traditionally made at home in Korean communities. Gochujang was often fermented in urns, sometimes up to a few years! Starting in the 1970s, however, the condiment became more widely accessible in Asian supermarkets and specialty stores, so the homemade practice has become less common.
Over the last several years, it's gained mainstream popularity and is now readily available in most supermarkets. Of course, you can always find it at an Asian supermarket such as Hmart or order online on Amazon.
Let's talk ingredients, shall we?
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas are the star ingredient in this recipe, used in two different ways. Half the chickpeas are blended with the chickpea liquid to form a creamy broth. The other half is sauteed with aromatics and simmered in the broth.
- Olive Oil: I'm listing EVOO here because it's really important! I know it seems like a lot of oil (¼ cup), but it's vital to have enough fat in this dish to balance the heat of the chili paste and the earthy, vegetal flavors.
- Aromatics: Garlic, onion, and rosemary are all ingredients commonly found in pasta e ceci. And you know what? They pair shockingly well with gochujang too.
- Rosemary: I like the rustic presentation of adding in a whole rosemary sprig with the garlic; as the broth simmers, the leaves separate from the stem so you can discard the stem before serving. But if you prefer, you can de-stem and finely chop the rosemary instead of throwing in the whole thing.
- Gochujang: I used 2 teaspoons of mild gochujang, and I found this offered plenty of heat without being overly spicy. Feel free to adjust to your own taste!
- Vegetable Stock: As always, I love using Better than Bouillon's Vegetable Base, as it adds a ton of flavor! You'll start with two cups, but depending on the cut of pasta (more on that below), you may need up to 3 cups to yield a stewy consistency that's not too thick.
- Pasta: You can use a few different types of pasta, but your stew will thicken differently depending on the cut used. This is a process where you'll want to use visual cues (and your own preferences) to alter the stew as needed. I recommend starting with 2 cups, as it's easier to add more later than it is to reduce it once you've added the pasta. If it's too thick after cooking the pasta, you can loosen it with some more stock.
What Cut of Pasta Should I Use?
I recommend ditalini (or another small tubular shape), pastina, or maltagliati for this creamy gochujang pasta e ceci.
Ditalini: Ditalini produced the least amount of "starchiness" in this dish. I love using it when I want a slightly looser, more soup-like stew as you can see in the photos here. You'll probably need 2 to 2 ½ cups max.
Pastina: When I tried the recipe with pastina, I found that they absorbed a lot of the liquid and released a good amount of starch. It created more of a thick, porridge-like texture with 2 cups of liquid. I personally loved the texture, but it's definitely not as soupy so you could definitely add more stock to compensate.
Maltagliati: Maltagliati, meaning "badly cut pasta" is a term used to refer to irregularly shaped pieces of pasta. For example, when making fresh pasta, you can save the irregular end pieces for soups and stews like this one. I tried this with some nests of dried fettucine I had purchased that broke into small pieces during transit. I ended up with 2-inch pieces of pasta that I added to the stew. I loved how creamy the end result was from the starchiness of the pasta!
Bottom line: Ditalini produces a soupier stew, while pastina will give you a thicker stew. But either way, you can easily adjust the broth as you go.
How to Make This Recipe
Let's get cooking!
- Make the chickpea broth:
Open a can of chickpeas and pour the liquid into a blender cup. Blend the liquid with half of the chickpeas until nice and smooth.
Set the other half of the chickpeas aside.
- Saute the aromatics:
Get your garlic and rosemary going with some olive oil in the pan. Add the onion and saute until everything is soft and aromatic.
- Cook down the pastes:
Add the tomato paste and the gochujang and stir everything together. Cook that down for a couple of minutes, until you start to see the color change from a more vibrant, bright red to deep red. You'll also see some browning on the sides and bottom of the pan -- that is all good stuff, indicating nice caramelization which means more flavor!
- Simmer the broth:
Add the chickpea broth and the vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, and scrape any brown bits from the bottom or sides of the pan. Simmer the broth for 10 minutes, or until it's thickened slightly. At this point it should taste nicely seasoned with a bit of heat, but feel free to adjust seasonings if you want things spicier or saltier.
- Cook the pasta:
Stir in the pasta and let everything cook on a vigorous simmer until it's al dente.
- Make the parsley-garlic oil:
Meanwhile, mix together some garlic and parsley in a bowl. Heat the oil over the stove until shimmering, then pour it over the parsley-garlic mixture.
- Finish the dish:
Stir in the cheese and half of the parsley-garlic oil. Divide amongst serving bowls, and top with more cheese and parsley-garlic oil. Enjoy!
This stew will last 2-3 days in the fridge. The flavors will continue to develop and get even more delicious. However, the pasta will continue to absorb more liquid and soften in texture, and the stew will thicken even more. Bottom line: It'll still taste good, but it definitely has a "leftovers" vibe as the texture is much softer. You will definitely want to add more liquid to loosen the stew when reheating.
If you want to make it ahead of time, I recommend cooking the broth (sans pasta) and storing it in the fridge. Just before serving, cook the pasta in the broth and finish the dish.
What to Serve With This Dish
Serve this with a bright, green salad or a citrus salad. This is a super rustic dish, so I recommend pairing it with something really bright and refreshing.
Or, for a complete and hearty meal, add some kale or spinach after cooking the pasta. Let the greens cook just until they wilt.
This is totally dependent on your preference and the pasta you use! A fresh pasta will be starchier, and therefore more stew-like. Ditalini is going to be more soupy. But you can always add more liquid to thin out the stew to your desired consistency.
It's very traditional in pasta e ceci to use chickpea broth, and while it adds delicious flavor, I totally understand if it's not your thing. Here's my recommendation:
1) Make your own chickpea broth. For a weekend project, cook up some dried beans in water to make your own broth. Then proceed with the recipe as is.
2) Sub the chickpea liquid for more vegetable broth: If you're just trying to get dinner on the table, you may not have the time to make your own chickpea broth. Instead, blend half of the drained chickpeas with ½ cup of additional broth.
Yes, totally! The only non-vegan ingredient is the cheese, and you can definitely omit it or just use a vegan parm. There's plenty of other flavorful ingredients here to compensate.
Did you try this recipe? I would love to hear your feedback! Be sure to rate the recipe and leave a comment below.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
This recipe has been tested by an in-house recipe tester.
Creamy Gochujang Pasta e Ceci
- Dutch oven or stock pot
- Immersion blender, or stand blender
- 15 ounces canned chickpeas, do not discard the liquid
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced and divided
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons mild gochujang paste*
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 to 3 cups vegetable broth, or chicken stock
- 4 ounces small dried pasta, such as ditalini, pastina, or maltagliati
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for topping
- Puree the chickpea broth: Open the can of chickpeas and pour all of the chickpea liquid into a blender cup along with half of the chickpeas (you'll use the other half later on). Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and set aside.Note: You can also use a regular stand blender to puree the mixture!15 ounces canned chickpeas
- Saute the aromatics: To a medium dutch oven or stock pot, add 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, ⅔ of the minced garlic, and the rosemary. Set over medium heat, and saute for 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant and soft.Add the onion, and saute for 7-8 minutes over medium-low heat until soft and translucent. Season with a big pinch of salt and black pepper.Note: Be careful with adding too much salt here if you are using Better Than Bouillon (which is already well seasoned).¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 1 small yellow onion, Salt and black pepper
- Cook the pastes: Stir in 1 ½ teaspoons gochujang paste and the tomato paste. Saute for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste transforms from bright red to brick red and the oil begins to separate.1 ½ to 2 teaspoons mild gochujang paste*, 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Saute the chickpeas: Add the remaining half of the chickpeas to the pot, and saute for 2-3 minutes until they’re well-coated in the tomato-gochujang paste.
- Simmer the liquids: Add the chickpea broth and 2 cups vegetable stock to the pot, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer (you should see lots of small bubbles and occasional large bubbles breaking the surface of the liquid). Simmer the broth for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping down the sides of the pan.2 to 3 cups vegetable broth
- Cook the pasta: Taste and season the broth once more. It should be well-salted and a bit spicy. If you'd like more heat, add another ½ teaspoon of gochujang paste.Add the pasta to the pot, and stir to combine. Continue vigorously simmering until the pasta is al dente and the broth has thickened into a stewy texture; stir occasionally. This could take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the pasta you chose so be sure to consult your package directions for exact timing.If the soup has thickened too much, add in up to 1 cup more vegetable broth.4 ounces small dried pasta
- Make the parsley oil: While the pasta cooks, prepare the oil. In a small bowl, combine the minced parsley and the remaining garlic clove. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- In a small pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil until it shimmers. Immediately pour the hot oil over the parsley-garlic mixture and stir together with a small spoon. Set aside.
- Serve: Remove the pasta e ceci from the heat and discard the rosemary stem. Stir in the cheese and half of the parsley-garlic oil.Taste again, and adjust seasoning as needed. It should taste creamy, well-salted, with a bit of a kick from the gochujang paste and the garlic. Texturally, it will be quite stew-like, with a thickened broth. If you like it spicier, you can add a bit more gochujang. Divide the stew amongst serving bowls and top with a bit more cheese and the parsley-garlic oil. Serve warm.¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese