The fact that ciciones are a semolina gnocchi also intrigued me. Mostly I make potato gnocchi, and occasionally I make ricotta gnocchi, which are essentially ravioli gnudi, or naked ravioli—it's the filling without the pasta. Gnocchi, incidentally, simply means dumplings or "little lumps." The semolina gnocchi I've eaten have always been heavier than the potato kind, although they still should not be lead weights.
So, armed with great eggs, semolina flour, and some Sardinian saffron I'd gotten from Scott at Sausage Debauchery, I set about making faux chickpeas.
Turns out it was an exercise in Zen.
You start with a wettish dough that you knead well and then let rest for a long time—two hours or more. This lets the dough relax and results in a lighter gnoccho.
Holly A. Heyser
You then cut off a small piece and roll it vigorously between your hands until you've made a yellow snake the width of a pencil. You'll want to work the dough up and down as you do this to get it as even as you can.
Next, you cut off little pieces of the snake that are, hopefully, about the size of chickpeas. You can stop here and cook them, or you can go the extra step and gently roll them between your palms into a nice round shape. And if you really want to get fancy, you can then pinch one end of each gnoccho between your thumb and your first three other fingers—this dimples the bottom, making the pasta really look like a chickpea.
Doing this a few times is fun. Doing this with several pounds of pasta dough is less fun. But after making about 100 or so of these little gnocchi, I fell into that state I call the "pasta trance."
Spin the dough into a snake. Get it pencil-thin. Cut off even pieces. Roll, roll, roll. Pinch, flick onto board. Ooh, a good one! Definitely looks like a chickpea. Ugh. Flattened out the dough by mistake. Roll, roll, roll. Pinch. Eh. That one's just okay. Om ... om ... om ...
Every now and then I'd look up and take a swig of wine. Once I noticed my neck hurt. It was an hour later. Roll, roll, roll. Pinch, flick onto board. This is not a quick and easy pasta.
But it is a good one.
Holly A. Heyser
This first dish is what I had in mind when I decided to make these gnocchi. I had some green chickpeas vacuum-sealed in the freezer and wanted to use them, and I thought it'd be cool to mix them with the semolina "chickpeas" and serve it simply with a dense tomato sauce and pecorino cheese.
Gorgeous. Both the real and the pasta chickpeas had just about the same density, brought together with the rich tomato sauce, made last summer from simmering down Brandywine tomatoes until they became neither sauce nor paste (maybe a jam?).
Here is the full recipe for making the gnocchi and pairing them with the chickpeas and tomato sauce.
Fresh chickpeas will become available in farmers' markets and in Mexican markets starting in a few weeks, so I'll soon get another chance to make this. If you've never eaten them, they are a little like fresh fava beans: definitely beany and sweeter than starchy, with an underlying "green" taste.