January 1999

Topsham, Devon January 4, 1999A modest resolution for the New Year: to eat more pulses. After the windiest and rainiest, most miserable in fact, holiday season that I can remember -- and it continues on and on, with more wind and damp raw weather today -- we seem to be craving the comfort that such satisfying and filling foods can bring: I'm thinking of cassoulet (made with delicious goose fat squirreled away from Christmas); Indian dhals; Burgundian lentilles with petit salé and baby onions; Boston baked beans made with blackstrap molasses and salt pork; Michele's famous blackbean soup spiked liberally with jalapeños and loads of cilantro; lenticchie e cotechino, the rich fatty boiling salami cut with sweet and hot mostarda di frutta, the lentils eaten last night with Nello and Karen for luck; and of course our favourite in all its various guises, pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans). For New Year's eve, in fact, we enjoyed such a southern Italian variation made with chickpeas and maccaroni, a most satisfying way to herald in the start of the last year of the millennium.

Pasta e ceci (pasta and chickpeas)

1 large red onion, peeled and chopped

1 bunch of celery, coarsely chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1-2 chilies, seeded and chopped (or to taste)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 lb/450 g spicy Italian sausage

A glass or so of full bodied red wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb/450 g cooked chickpeas

About 3-4 litres homemade chicken or duck stock

1 lb/450 g maccaroni (or penne)

Plenty of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed casserole or saucepan, and gently fry the onions, celery, carrots and chillies. Skin and crumble in the spicy Italian sausage and fry until brown. Add a glass or so of red wine to the pot and season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the chickpeas and the homemade stock, and leave to simmer for an hour or so. When ready to eat, bring to the boil, and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, check seasoning, and serve at once with plenty of freshly grated cheese.

Wine suggestion: This rich and filling southern Italian dish demands a gutsy and full-flavoured wine to match: try a Salice Salentino (Taurino) or Copertino from the excellent cantina sociale.


Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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