Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

This Pasta e Ceci Recipe Taught Me To Stop Worrying and Love the Instant Pot

One spoonful of pasta e ceci, a rustic stew with roots in Rome, will justify the Instant Pot’s spot on your counter.

by 
Lorena Cupcake
February 1, 2021

I never intended to own an Instant Pot; I always had doubts it could live up to its hyperbolic claims of being able to do just so damn much. How was something with what felt like 8 million buttons going to simply my cooking? Nope, I wasn’t buying it. Literally.

Still, one winter, I found a heavy cubic box perched on my front steps. In a fit of holiday zeal, my mother sent one to everyone she knows, lured by the appliance's affordable price point and popularity.

Determined not to seem ungrateful — and faintly encouraged by my mother's successful stews and soups — I tried a few recipes. Each one sent me running to the manufacturer’s guide as I tried to decode the dizzying array of cooking program options. I tried to braise carnitas; my pork shoulder came out bouncy as a basketball. I made a pot of beans; starchy foam clogged the venting mechanism. My attempt at risotto came out more like congee with an Italian accent.

So I kind of gave up. I vowed to never again attempt any of the dodgy-looking recipes out there for rubbery egg bites or clammy-looking cakes.

But something kept luring me back for one more go, and one day I had a breakthrough.

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That discovery is what helped me crack the Instant Pot code: I've learned that the secret — at least for me — to appreciating a pressure cooker is to pressure cook in it as little as possible. After using heat and pressure to create a rich chickpea broth in record time, this pasta e ceci recipe switches to the Saute function to finish cooking the tiny pasta and hearty Tuscan kale. Taking the lid off allows you to monitor the cooking progress of delicate ingredients, keeping this Roman stew from turning into a bland, textureless mush.

Quick note: Want to make this vegetarian? You can swap in vegetable broth and rennet-free parm for a just-as-flavorful animal-product-free soup.

Instant Pot Pasta e Ceci with Tuscan Kale

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Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tbsps olive oil, plus more for garnish

6 garlic cloves, smashed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Rind from a 6 oz. wedge of parmesan, plus grated cheese for garnish

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, divided

2 dried bay leaves

6 whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed well

1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus additional to taste

8 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or aleppo pepper 

3 tbsps tomato paste

1/2 cup dried tiny pasta (such as ditalini or tubetti; star or alphabet shapes; or mini versions of elbows, wheels and farfalle)

4 cups loosely packed Tuscan kale (Red Russian, baby kale or curly kale also work), ribs removed and roughly chopped

1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley, chopped

Ground black pepper

Special equipment: cheesecloth, Instant Pot

 | 
 | 
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tbsps olive oil, plus more for garnish

6 garlic cloves, smashed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Rind from a 6 oz. wedge of parmesan, plus grated cheese for garnish

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, divided

2 dried bay leaves

6 whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed well

1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus additional to taste

8 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or aleppo pepper 

3 tbsps tomato paste

1/2 cup dried tiny pasta (such as ditalini or tubetti; star or alphabet shapes; or mini versions of elbows, wheels and farfalle)

4 cups loosely packed Tuscan kale (Red Russian, baby kale or curly kale also work), ribs removed and roughly chopped

1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley, chopped

Ground black pepper

Special equipment: cheesecloth, Instant Pot

Ingredients

2 tbsps olive oil, plus more for garnish

6 garlic cloves, smashed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Rind from a 6 oz. wedge of parmesan, plus grated cheese for garnish

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, divided

2 dried bay leaves

6 whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed well

1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus additional to taste

8 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or aleppo pepper 

3 tbsps tomato paste

1/2 cup dried tiny pasta (such as ditalini or tubetti; star or alphabet shapes; or mini versions of elbows, wheels and farfalle)

4 cups loosely packed Tuscan kale (Red Russian, baby kale or curly kale also work), ribs removed and roughly chopped

1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley, chopped

Ground black pepper

Special equipment: cheesecloth, Instant Pot

Directions

1. Program the Instant Pot for 10 minutes of Saute cooking time at Normal heat. Add olive oil, garlic and onion, turn off heat when the aromatics are lightly browned. Create a bouquet garni by tying parmesan rind, one sprig rosemary, bay leaves and peppercorns into a cheesecloth bundle.

2. Add bouquet garni, chickpeas, salt, and chicken broth to Instant Pot. Close the lid and program the Instant Pot for 60 minutes of High Pressure Pressure Cooking with More heat (if that's an option on your model). After the cooking cycle has completed, allow pressure to naturally release for 20 minutes. 

Note: This process for cooking chickpeans will work for newer Instant Pot models, but if yours is older, you may want to check the dreaded (gasp!) manual for time and setting recommendations only for cooking chickpeas.

3. Test chickpeas to ensure they’re fully cooked. Discard bouquet garni. Add red pepper flakes and tomato paste to chickpeas. Program Instant Pot for 15 minutes of Saute cooking with Normal heat. Simmer with the lid off, stirring occasionally. Then, add uncooked pasta and kale. Again, program Instant Pot for 15 minutes of Saute cooking with Normal heat, this time stirring more frequently. Thicker pasta shapes may require additional cooking time.

4. Mince remaining fresh rosemary. Add rosemary and parsley to warm soup and stir until leaves are bright green and wilted. Add additional salt if necessary. Serve garnished with olive oil, grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

About the Author

Lorena Cupcake

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