Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams) for "The Geometry of Pasta" Review

"The Perfect Shape + The Perfect Sauce = The Geometry of Pasta" is the theory behind the book, "The Geometry of Pasta" by Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy. I received this book to review several weeks ago and rather than sit idly on my review book pile, this one sat on my bedside table and was paged through bit by tasty bit.

A fascinating book with gorgeous black and white graphics of pasta shapes instead of photos--it goes from A (Agnolotti) to Z (Ziti / Candele) and through more pastas than I ever knew existed. Covering the history and use of each pasta shape, along with a recipe or two to make with them. The book touches on just about everything you can think of on the subject of true Italian pasta, including a tutorial on the basics of pasta and pasta sauce making, this is a book for pasta fans and aficionados who like a little science, history, philosophy and of course geometry thrown in. Hildebrand is an award-winning graphic designer who has produced cookbooks by acclaimed chefs and celebrities like Nigella Lawson, and Kenedy is a chef and co-owner of Bocca di Lupo, a popular, award-winning London restaurant, and together this pair has created a stylish book full of more than 100 drool-worthy authentic recipes.

It was difficult to choose a dish to make until I stumbled across the Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams). I loved the idea of pureeing chickpeas into a creamy sauce and pairing it with fresh clams, plus I just happened to have a package of ditali waiting to be used.

Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole in Black & White
(in homage to The Geometry of Pasta!) ;-)

About Ditali and Ditalini, the book says, "Ditali and their smaller brethren ditalini are short tubes of pasta whose diameter is about the same as their length. Their name stems from ditale ("thimbles"), and thus dita ("finger"). Among the numerous other names, denti di vecchia ("old folks ' teeth") and denti di cavallo ("horse's teeth") stand out as amusing. Whilst they are an industrial pasta, ditali have been around since the 1800s. Small ones are usually served in brodo, larger ones in thicker soups. Both sizes come lisci ("smooth") or rigati ("ridged"), the latter pairing well with thicker sauces--such as Calabrese pasta ca trimma, the pasta cooked with potatoes and tossed in a sauce of beaten egg, pecorino, and parsley. Given their bead-like dimensions, they are one of the best for making necklaces, along with sedanini."

Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams)
From "The Geometry of Pasta" by Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy

1/3 lb ditali*
1 1/3 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (2/3 lb)
1 1/3 cups chicken cooking liquid (or water, if using canned)
1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb live clams
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
a decent pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh red chili (optional)

*Also good with this sauce--chifferi, rigati, farfalle, farfalle tonde, pasta mista, torchio

You need to start making the sauce about 10 minutes before your pasta is ready (just undercooked, probably a minute or so less than stated on the package), so time yourself accordingly.

Finely puree three-quarters of the chickpeas with their liquid. Heat a wide frying pan (large enough for the clams to fit into in a single layer, with some space to spare). When very hot, add 9 tablespoons of the oil, the clams, and the garlic all at once. Fry until the garlic starts to colour, then add the red pepper flakes and half of the parsley for just a second or 2 before the pureed and whole chickpeas. Let the sauce bubble away merrily. As the clams pop open, pick them out one by one (leave them in the shells), and set aside. When the last have popped, test the sauce for seasoning. Leave it to boil if necessary, until the sauce has the consistency of light cream. Add the drained pasta, along with the cooked clams, back to the pan with the remaining parsley, and let everything cook together until the sauce is as thick as heavy cream but still somewhat soupy.

Serve immediately with the remaining oil drizzled on top, and a scattering of fresh chili if you like.

Notes/Results: I really enjoyed this dish, it was different than anything I had ever tried before, with great texture and a nutty, slightly earthy flavor. There is something so satisfying about cooking clams and watching them open one-by-one while hearing each delicate "pop." Once your chickpeas are soaked and cooked (I cooked mine the day before or you can use canned if you want more convenience), this dish goes together very quickly and easily if mind the recipe and watch your timing to make the sauce as the pasta just finishes cooking. It is extremely filling and hearty and looks and tastes nice enough to serve to guests but is also simple enough for a weeknight dinner. I will make it again and play around with the chickpea sauce for other pasta shapes.

"The Geometry of Pasta" is a great addition for the reference and/or Italian sections of your cookbook library or it would be a fun holiday gift--along with some different pasta shapes, for a food-loving friend.

I am linking my delicious Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams) to two favorite events this week--Ruth's fabulous Presto Pasta Nights, being hosted this week by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by my pal girlichef as well as A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy.

Obligatory Disclosure: I was sent this book in the hopes that I would read and review it but no monetary compensation was received and as always, my thoughts, opinions and feedback are my own.


  1. I believe that this dish indeed must have tasted totally out of the ordinary. The combination of ingredients is very unique. I would love to try it!

  2. I love this review! You did a great job of capturing the essence of this book. And the recipe you chose - excellent. I love how it thinks outside the box by pureeing the chickpeas.

  3. So many things to thank you for... introduction to what looks like an awesome book; gorgeous photos that have me drooling and craving pasta for breakfast; and a really interesting dish. Thanks for sharing it all with Presto Pasta Nights.

  4. I need to buy that book, I really don't know much about the why's of shapes and what sauces serve them best. Great looking dish Deb.

  5. I saw this book over at Claudia's Place (Journey of an Italian Cook) a bit ago...and was so interested...and again, I know that I am on the lookout for it, it sounds so informative and interesting! This dish is definitely different from any I've eaten before, I love that the chickpeas help to form the sauce! And I can almost envision the popping of the clams, how lovely! Gorgeous Deb, thanks so much for sharing it with the hearth and soul hop this week, too :D

  6. Fabulous! I lived in Italy for a while and fell in love not only with Italian food and cooking but all the myriad shapes of pasta. And this dish is perfect! Love ceci e vongole and it is a great pleasure to find a fabulous recipe that uses FRESH live clams and not bottled! Heavens this is wonderful!

  7. Great review Deb. As usual, my cheap ass will be going to the library to see the book :-)

    Thanks for being my new friend on GoodReads!

  8. Wow, Deb! Looks like you hit another one out of the park! So many great textures and flavors in this dish. I now want to buy this book! :)

  9. I've always been fascinated by pasta shapes. Whenever I'm at a gourmet food shop I have to browse the pasta section. This book sounds like something I'd be interested in.

  10. This sounds like such a unique use of ingredients! I love the chickpea puree as a sauce! Genius!

  11. Yum! I've never cooked with clams before, but this looks amazing.

  12. I'm completely sold on this book and can't wait to add it to my collection.

    Turning chickpeas into a sauce sounds amazing to me and I love the way you described the pop of the clamshells opening.

  13. Oh yum - this ha just rocketed straight to the top of my "need to try" recipes - I love pasta with clams, and I love chickpeas too, but never in a gazzillion years would I have thought of pureeing the chickpeas to make the sauce - that's totally inspired :-)

  14. What a unique combo - one I would of never thought of! I am really loving this book - have to add it to my wish list!

  15. very unique. Thanks for sharing w/ the hearth and soul recipe this week

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  17. What a fun book, not to mention educational. The world of pasta is so diverse! My husband would love this dish. We don't have much good, fresh seafood around here, but he loves clams and mussels when we are dining out or traveling.

  18. Thanks everyone! It is really an interesting book and such a great, unique recipe. The chickpeas make such a good sauce. Hope you enjoy thm both!



  19. Thanks for taking part in PPN.

    The book will be at my local library tomorrow, I am so looking forward to getting it!

    The round up is now finally up! Sorry for the delay!


  20. I had sworn not to buy another cookbook, but now will have to make an exception. The recipe you chose is a winner too.


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