Recipe: Spaghetti con Ceci

Spaghetti con CeciWith the Boston Marathon right around the corner, and the blessed nutritional advice of PK Newby to ramp up carb consumption several days before the race, I thought I’d make one of Smitten Kitchen’s many fabulous recipes: Spaghetti with chickpeas, more elegantly known as spaghetti con ceci.

The recipe, originally published by New York magazine, is positioned as a perfect choice for marathon runners looking to carbo-load. As the name suggest, the dish boasts both pasta and chickpeas, along with pancetta, onion, garlic, basil, and tomato. It’s a really tasty, hearty dish, and pretty easy to make.

Here’s the recipe with my notes:


  • 15 ounces canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup stock (chicken is in the recipe, but I’ve used beef and it tastes the same)
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (see my note below–I think you can easily scale this back)
  • 1/2 cup pancetta, diced (a little shy of 2 ounces)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Pinch chili flakes
  • 1 14-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
  • 10 to 15 basil leaves, diced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
My favorite brand of pancetta, pre-cubed from Trader Joe's.
My favorite brand of pancetta, pre-cubed from Trader Joe’s.


Put a big pot of water on to boil for pasta.

Meanwhile, begin work on the sauce. Set some of the chickpeas aside, and blend the rest in a food processor with the stock to chop them up.

Mmm, blended chickpeas and broth.
Mmm, blended chickpeas and broth.

Saute the pancetta in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned (a few minutes). Then add the chopped veggies (onion and garlic) along with the chili flakes. Cook until it’s translucent. I like to add salt at this stage as well.

Sauteeing the pancetta
Sauteeing the pancetta

Then add the food processed chickpeas and stock, tomatoes, and basil, and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Add the al dente pasta (hopefully you remembered to add it to the boiling water!) and reserved whole chickpeas and toss to evenly coat with the sauce. The recipe calls for reserving some of the pasta water and using it to thin the sauce; I’ve never needed this, but you might want to reserve some just in case. Add salt to taste and use the parmesan for serving.

The finished product
The finished product

Amy’s Notes

  • I think the oil specified in this recipe is WAY too much, given how fatty pancetta is. I used perhaps one tablespoon and then the pancetta rendered enough additional fat to saute all the veggies.
  • More veggies! I added chopped mushrooms with the onions and garlic when I made this most recently. It was good. I bet you could also add chopped leafy greens at the end and wilt them, and that would taste good.
  • Deb of Smitten Kitchen recommends doubling the sauce, and she’s right. However, I forgot this last time and was quite sad not to have the saucy feast I’d dreamed about.
  • Two ounces of pancetta? Psssht. My Trader Joe’s package (pictured above) is 4 ounces; I use the whole thing without shame.
Fresh basil
Fresh basil