Laina e Ceci (Laina pasta and Chickpeas) is a traditional dish from south-western Lazio, that of the Ciociaria that looks towards the sea. Treaties could be written on the definition of the term Ciociaria and in any case each person in Southern Lazio has his own idea that differs from that of the others.
Remember that the current province of Frosinone was born by taking part of the ancient province of Campagna and Marittima of the Papal States and that of the Terre di Lavoro of the Bourbon Kingdom.
The fact is that Latina did not yet exist as it was submerged by the waters of the Pontine marshes and that the province was called ‘Campagna e Marittima’ explains how a fairly homogeneous territory included the area of the upper province of Frosinone down to the sea.
With these premises, I declare that Laina e Ceci is a characteristic dish of Ciociaria. And I don’t listen to all the other ideas.
Laina is a type of long pasta, a kind of thicker and wider fettuccine, mixed only with durum wheat flour, water and a pinch of salt.
I make them by hand using the Maestà wheat semolina, a grain with excellent organoleptic qualities that was created to be planted in the centre-south. It is at the basis of the relaunch of the La Molisana pasta factory and represents the quality of its products.
The term laina deserves a separate story: we already find it in Marco Gavio Apicio’s cookbook to indicate a generic mixture of water and flour pulled and cut into strips. At that time it was called the “laganum”, a food for the poor. But laina could also derive from “lainaturo” that is the rolling pin.
By the way, for the uninitiated Marco Gavio Apicio was a Roman gastronome and cook and he also transcribed some of the recipes. He lived between the two centuries I B.C. and I AD he was a friend of the emperors of the time, especially Tiberius. His recipes were transcribed after his death, but they are still the first precious testimony of ancient Roman cuisine.
Since laina is a poor man’s pasta, it has always been seasoned with simple sauces. The most traditional one is with a chickpea sauce, in Selvacava di Ausonia in the province of Frosinone where for over twenty years the Laina and chickpea festival has been organized. But this is also one of the typical dishes of the nearby Castelnuovo Parano.
Recipe of Laina and Chickpeas
The preparation of the dish begins the night before by soaking the dried chickpeas in water.
We make the laine by putting the flour on a flat board and kneading it with water and a pinch of salt. We must work energetically to create a homogeneous mixture which must then be left to rest for about half an hour.
Then we spread the dough in a not too fine sheet, sprinkle it with flour and let it dry for 10 minutes. At this point, we will cut it like slightly irregular fettuccine.
In the meantime, boil the chickpeas in a saucepan and start preparing the sauce. For this we chop an onion and fry it in a pan with oil to which we will then add the peeled tomatoes and cook the sauce with a pinch of salt.
After boiling the chickpeas, we add them to the sauce and cook them for a few minutes.
The peculiarity of this dish is to cook the pasta directly in the chickpea sauce, to which we will have added water. When the pasta is ready, after a few minutes, we serve everything adding semi-fresh pecorino flakes.
In the glass, to stay in the Ciociaria area but not near the sea (say in the ancient papal province of Campagna), I chose a good glass of red Cesanese del Piglio DOCG.