How to make pasta with chickpeas, a dish fit for the Romans

The Ancient Romans first paired pasta with chickpeas, and people have been cooking it ever since. Silvana Lanzetta explains how to make this hearty, healthy classic.

How to make pasta with chickpeas, a dish fit for the Romans
Pasta with chickpeas is a staple of Italian 'cucina povera' (peasant cooking). Photo: FCarucci/DepositPhotos

Pasta with chickpeas is a very old recipe dating back to Roman times, and a staple food from the peasant tradition of southern Italy.

The first written record of pasta with chickpeas comes from Horace’s Satires, written between 35 and 30 BC. Horatio mentions a dish called lagane coi ceci (which can be still enjoyed today in the Cilento area and Calabria), which was made with lagane, chickpeas and leeks. Lagana is today a large pasta ribbon, somewhat wider than tagliatelle. But during Roman times it was much wider, similar to lasagna sheets.

READ ALSO: How to decipher Italy's mind-boggling pasta menus

Photo: zkruger/DepositPhotos

Pasta with chickpeas is traditionally food for the very poor. Despite this, it’s very nutritious, because of its high protein content. A few ingredients come together to create an incredibly tasty dish: scraps left over from pasta making or mixed pasta shapes, chickpeas, and sometimes pork rind or anchovies (the latter for the Roman version).

In my family pasta with chickpeas was a weekly rendezvous: every Monday, after the Sunday feast of meat and heavy eating. My mum used to prepare it the old way, with pork rind instead of bacon, and using the scraps leftover (called maltagliati – literally 'badly cut') from the pasta making the day before.

READ ALSO: Silvana's ten golden rules for cooking pasta like the Italians

There are many recipes for pasta with chickpeas, according to each family’s tradition: some use tomato sauce, some don’t use a battuto (chopped carrot, celery, and onion), some use only garlic. All versions are delicious. The recipe I propose here is the one of the oldest, since it doesn’t contain tomatoes (remember that tomato is a plant native to the Americas, and was imported to Europe only in the 15th century). 

Try the version you like best. You can start with this one, and then decide!


If you have the rind of a Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, add it to the pot when adding the stock: it will give extra flavour to the dish. Do not forget to remove it before serving.

If you use canned chickpeas, make sure to rinse them several times, to remove all the salt that has been used to store them.

Maltagliati is a pasta that literally means 'badly cut', and it is usually created with the scraps left over from making other pasta. You can make your own maltagliati using uncooked lasagna sheets: just cut them with a pastry wheel, making irregular shapes of about 1-2 cm long.

Photo: sonia62/DepositPhotos

Ingredients for four portions

250 g boiled chickpeas
300 g maltagliati or mixed short pasta
100 g pancetta or lardons (optional)
1 carrot
1 onion
1 celery stalk
500 ml of vegetables stock
1/2 tsp of dry thyme
2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil


1. Finely chop the onion, the celery, the carrot, and the garlic cloves. Gently warm the olive oil on low heat, then add the chopped vegetables, and sweat them for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, and add the pancetta, if using.

2. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the chickpeas, and sauté for another 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme, then pour the vegetable stock. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add the pasta, stirring well to make sure that it is completely covered by the stock. If necessary, add some more stock. The pasta has to be covered, but be careful not to drown it in stock.

4. Raise the heat to medium, and cook until the pasta is ready. It might take up to 12 minutes, depending on the pasta used. Don’t forget to stir often: small shapes tend to stick to the pan very quickly. Add more stock if required.

5. Serve your pasta with chickpeas immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for a maximum of 24 hours.

Silvana Lanzetta. Photo: Private

Silvana Lanzetta was born into a family of pasta makers from Naples and spent 17 years as a part-time apprentice in her grandmother’s pasta factory. She specializes in making pasta entirely by hand and runs regular classes and workshops in London.

Find out more at her website,, including this recipe and others.

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Eat like a Bavarian: How to cook a five course meal of southern goodness

Beer gardens and restaurants Bavaria (and the rest of the Bundesrepublik) may be closed for sit-in dining, but here's how you can cook traditional comfort food to enjoy in your own home.

Eat like a Bavarian: How to cook a five course meal of southern goodness
A traditional Bavarian-style 'Brotzeitplatte'. Photo: DPA

Recreate Biergarten comfort

If you live in Bavaria, or have ever spent a holiday there, you know the drill: a sunny day = time to go to der Biergarten.

One of the many things that make Biergarten just so fun is die Brotzeitplatte, a big plate of typically Bavarian appetizers, like Obazder and thinly sliced Emmentaler cheese. Usually shared with friends or family, and accompanied by a cool Bier (beer) or Radler (beer with lemonade).

Good news is: Preparing a plate like that is quite easy and you don’t even need to turn on the oven. Just go to the market of you choice and get some: 

  • Thinly-sliced Emmentaler cheese, topped with some ground black pepper. 
  • Pickled cucumbers 
  • Some thinly-sliced ham. The best option is to buy Wacholderschinken from your local butcher. (Trust me, it’s so much tastier than normal supermarket ham)
  • Some nice Wurst (sausage), like Leberwurst (liver sausage) or Blutwurst (black pudding)
  • Thinly sliced Radi (white reddish), traditionally sliced in a spiral form with a special peeler. If you don’t own one, don’t worry, thin slices will do. 
  • Brezen (Pretzels) — because it wouldn’t be Bavarian without them 
  • Obazder, store-bought or homemade, whichever you prefer. If you would like to make some yourself, here’s a quick and proven recipe: 100g Camembert, 100g Brie, 100g cream cheese, 25g butter, a small diced onion, red pepper powder, a sip of beer, cut parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything well and take out of the fridge 30 minutes before mealtime!
Typically Bavarian ‘Brezen’ at a bakery in Munich. Photo: DPA

Nothing like a good soup

A hearty good Brühe (broth) used to be the pride of every Bavarian housewife (or house-husband). Usually boiled for hours and made from fresh meat, bones and vegetables, broth has become a convenience product. (Think little cubes of dried broth!)

Thankfully, today most bigger stores like REWE also sell liquid broth in glasses or cans. It is much more hearty than the dried version, and even German grandparents would probably approve. 

So to make a delicious Bavarian Hochzeitssuppe (“wedding soup“, but actually a soup for all occasions) you only need:

  • A big glass of broth (preferably vegetable or beef)
  • Griessnockerl: Ready-made ones are available at bigger supermarkets, but making them yourself if actually pretty easy. You just need one egg, 20g butter, 60g Gries (semolina), finely cut chives, muscat and pepper to taste. Beat the butter until it becomes yellow and fluffy, mix in the egg and beat again until the mixture gets foamy. Then stir in semolina and spices and leave to rest for about one hour. Then, with the help of two spoons, create little oval dumplings and directly slip them into the simmering broth. 
  • Dried pancake strips: Yes, you read that right. Leftover pancakes from your last brunch? Just place them in the oven on a big plate, let them dry until they’re crunchy and store in an airtight container. Whenever you feel like Flädlesuppe (broth with pancake strips) just heat some broth and throw them in. 
  • Some finely diced veggies to taste, like carrots or parsnips
  • Chives and parsley as a topping

Heat everything together and done!

A veggie-friendly allrounder: Käsespätzle (Cheesy pasta)

This dish really is an all time classic, not just in Bavaria, but also in Baden-Württemberg, Austria and even in the Alsace in France.

It is very easy to make, especially if you just buy your Spätzle. One might think that the combination of pasta and cheese really can’t be that special, but wait! The secret is in the cheese!

        Traditional Käsespätzle. Photo: DPA

Choosing the right mix of cheese for Käsespätzle is crucial. Depending on region, the recipe might vary a bit, but the general secret is: a mix of mild (preferably Emmentaler) and savory (preferably Bergkäse) cheese. And: lots of fried onions and parsley to top it with. 

The recipe is incredibly easy: Heat some oil and butter, throw in your cut onions, stir-fry and set aside. If you like it crunchy, sprinkle them with some flour before frying. Then, put the Spätzle in the same pan, heat and stir well. Then add your cheese mix, and again, stir well until the cheese has melted. Top it of with your onions and some fresh cut parsley and you’re ready to go!

READ ALSO: The 10 heartiest German dishes to get you through winter

There’s nothing like a heavenly creamy dessert

A bit lesser known than Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes), but a creamy piece of heaven: Bayrisch Creme (Bavarian cream).

This recipe is a bit longer, but still easy. 

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All you need is: 

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 300 ml full fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon (or as advised on packaging) Agar-Agar (a vegetarian replacement for gelatin) 
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • 250 ml cream 

Cut open your vanilla beans, scratch out all that black goodness and put it in the milk. Heat the mixture until it begins to boil. Then, pull the pot off the plate. Get a second pot, put in your egg yolks and sift in your powdered sugar. Then get a third pot (sorry, but it really is worth it!), and heat some water.

Place the second pot in the third pot, but don’t let any water run into your egg yolk mix. Slowly, under constant stirring, add the milk-mix. Then, take a whisk and beat the mixture until foamy. Take the pot of the plate, and let it cool down. Then beat the liquid cream until it’s stiff and mix it with rest. Put it into the fridge for a couple of hours until the mixture is quite firm. 

Bayrisch Creme is best served with seasonal fruits or fruit sauce.

Late night snack: A Bavarian cheese platter

It’s one of those nights, where you’re just having too much fun around the table to go home. Thankfully, there’s an excellent way to satisfy late night savoury cravings: a Bavarian cheese platter. You need:

  • Any local cheese you like, for example: Emmentaler, Bergkäse, Bavaria Blu, Alpenkräuterkäse, Tilsiter, …
  • Some cream cheese
  • Butter 
  • Blue and white grapes
  • Brezen

Enjoy! Or as the Bavarians say: Guad’n.

By Lisa Schneider