Chickpeas & Pasta

chickpea pasta plated

I finished teaching my 3-part Eat Better Series just over a week ago. And I missed my students this Sunday, when they didn’t show up for the first time in four weeks. I didn’t miss cleaning the house but I did miss the dynamic, passionate, and rich conversations about food and food in our regular old daily lives–the likes and dislikes of children and partners; the satisfaction in successfully applying a new skill to dinner prep several nights in a row; the beauty of leftovers for lunch; and the joy of pre-cooked beans in the freezer.

You know I’m a big fan of the latter. Those cooked beans in the freezer are a busy person’s lifeline when it comes to dinner. Canned beans certainly work too but the flavor of those home-cooked ones (not to mention minimal cost, lack of BPA traces. . .) is worth the occasional effort of cooking big batches and freezing most for later use.  I think my new pals from the series are as hooked on home-cooked beans as I am now, in part thanks to this dish, which was definitely a class favorite.

So, if you find yourself short on time and with some already cooked chickpeas on hand, make this for dinner. I realized after the fact that it’s a vegan dish. I tend to think most things are improved by adding cheese but I actually didn’t do so in this dish and was amazed by the richness and complexity of flavor in this meal that takes barely 20 minutes to prepare.

Buon Appetito!

P.S. I will be repeating the series in March and have a wait list going so if you’re interested, please let me know.

P.P.S. I’m also launching lunchtime classes in late February, so if you don’t have time for a weekend class and are interested in a shorter, mid-day stint, sign on up!

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

–Adapted from Jamie’s Italy via Dana Treat

Serves 4 (with some leftovers)

This is delicious, fast, easy and nutritious.  I also tend to use the chickpea cooking water for part of the liquid, top it off with water and then add about 4 teaspoons of veggie bouillon to the mix if you have it or just add vegetable stock or just water.

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped (use carrot if you don’t have celery or both or neither. . . it will still be great)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Olive oil

1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped, about 1 teaspoon’s worth or a bit more

1 quart cooked chickpeas (keep the cooking liquid they were frozen in) or  2 14-oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 1/2 cups veggie bouillon or vegetable stock (or mix veggie bouillon into chickpea cooking liquid if you have it and top off with water)

5 ounces tubetti or ditalini or other quite small, stout pasta. 5 oz is about one generous cup if you’re using this kind of small pasta and don’t have a scale.

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat and then pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onion and celery (and/or carrot if using) and sauté just until tender, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.  Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the chickpeas and the bouillon.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and allow to cook just until the chickpeas are heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove half of the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

You can do this next step of pureeing part of the soup or skip it. It’s great either way. Purée the soup in the pan with a handheld immersion blender, or blend in a blender or food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender.  Add the reserved whole chickpeas and the pasta to the blended part, season the soup with some pepper (it will likely be salty enough because of the veggie bouillon), and simmer gently until the chickpeas are very tender and the pasta is cooked, about 10  minutes. Add more liquid as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with some good olive oil.