Lemony, Spicy Pasta with Chickpeas (Cecci con la tria)

The very interesting combination of pasta and chickpeas originally comes from Puglia, on the heel of the Italian boot. It is served drizzled with diauliciu (the Devil’s condiment), as the Chili Olive Oil is called in many parts of the Italian south.  All the versions I tasted were made with fresh homemade pasta, part of which was fried, adding a lovely crisp to the dish. 

You can achieve a similar effect with the dried commercial pasta (see Note).

 

Scroll down for the variation, based on the NYT Roman version of the Pasta with Chickpeas with rosemary and tomatoes, instead of lemon.

 

 

Serves 4

 

1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, or 3 cups pre-cooked, frozen chickpeas

 

1/2 cup olive oil

 

1 pound homemade fettucine, or any commercial dried pasta –linguini, spaghetti etc.

 

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

 

1-3 dried pepperoncini, or good pinches Aleppo or Maras pepper, to taste

 

Sea salt

 

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth or more, as needed

 

2 bay leaves

 

3 tablespoons or more freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

 

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

 

Flat leaf parsley to sprinkle

 

Fruity olive Oil to drizzle

 

 

If using dried chickpeas, drain and cook in plenty of water, over low heat, for an hour or, until tender.  Drain the chickpeas, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

 

If you like, and you are using homemade pasta warm the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, and fry about a quarter of the fresh pasta, until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. 

If you are using dried commercial pasta skip this or see Note. 

In the same olive oil, sauté the garlic and chilies for less than a minute, without letting the garlic color.  Add the cooked chickpeas sprinkle with salt to taste, and sauté 2 -3 minutes more.  Pour in 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, or broth, add the bay leaves, and cook for another 5 minutes or more, until chickpeas are tender, adding more broth as needed.

 Stir in the lemon juice, taste and adjust the seasoning with freshly ground pepper and more lemon juice, or salt, if you like.

 

You can prepare the dish a few hours in advance up to this point.

 

About 20 minutes before serving, boil the pasta al dente, following the package instructions, drain it, and add it to the simmering chickpeas. Crumble the fried pasta, add to the skillet, toss and adjust the seasoning.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve, drizzling each plate with fruity olive oil.

 

NOTE:  If you are using commercial dried pasta, boil a handful for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to soften.  Drain well on paper towels and then fry it in olive oil until crisp.

 

VARIATION:

Pasta with Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Rosemary, and Chicory

Adapted from the NYT recipe, by Colu Henry

Sautee one coarsely chopped onion and the garlic, then add 2-3 fresh, diced tomatoes and 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary with the chickpeas; cook until tender, then add 1 cup ditalini pasta into the broth.  After 5-6 minutes, add 2-3 cups coarsely shredded kale, or radicchio. Toss and cook until pasta is done. 

 

 

 

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Pasta with Purslane and Tomato

This easy, fresh, and utterly delicious summer dish is based on a Cypriot recipe my friend Marilena Ioannides cooked on Facebook Live during one of her brilliant weekly presentations.

Even if you don’t speak Greek you can easily follow her cooking method, which in that case is extremely simple.

Marilena uses scallions but I prefer to flavor the tangy purslane and tomatoes with garlic. Also I substituted basil for the mint, as we have plenty in the garden. Note that contrary to Italy, the traditional herb used in Cyprus, as well as in Greece is mint, not basil.

But of course you can choose either, depending on your taste, and whatever you have in your garden…

 

We ate purslane in the summer, since I was a child, as it is one of the very few greens we have this very dry season in our part of the world. Lately it has become much sought-after for its health benefits. Yet, as I will never cease to repeat, my choice of ingredients and way of cooking is always based on what I learned from my mother and grandmother, as well as from friends who recorded old regional dishes of our area. I choose seasonal produce and combine them simply, to create wonderful, fresh flavors; whatever health benefits they have is an extra bonus!

 

Serves 4

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Green, Spring Pasta (Pasta Primavera) with Asparagus, Fresh Fava, and Lemon

A very satisfying, brothy, lemony pasta that you can whip up in minutes, much like the tomato one-pot pasta. Use whatever fresh greens or vegetables you have at hand; the leftover asparagus stems give extra flavor –we like to save the tender spears and  simply grill them, instead of using them in the pasta. Fresh or frozen peas can be substituted for the fava.

You can also add parsley, tarragon, chervil or any other spring herbs you like. 

 

 

Serves 3-4 (more…)

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Red Rice Risotto with Leeks, Mushrooms, Fresh Fava, and Cilantro

South of Arles, in Provence, the legendary wetlands of Camargue produce a superb red long-grain rice. Grown in Europe’s largest delta, the rice tastes incredibly nutty and lends itself to all kinds of dishes, warm or cold. This colorful risotto is vegan, nourishing, and satisfying so it can be a main course or side dish.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.

 

PHOTO by Penny De Los Santos

 

Less known than the Italian Arborio or the Spanish Calasparra and Bomba – all medium grain rice – the red long grains of Camargue are easier to cook.  They don’t require constant stirring and retain their shape and bite beautifully. The recipe is simple, and you can use it as the base to create your own variations with seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs, or with dried fruits and nuts. 

 

Serves 3-4 (more…)

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Risotto with Greens, Herbs, Garlic, and Lemon

I fondly remember a light and delicious herb-lime risotto I enjoyed one sunny September day some years ago.  I was at La Fenière, the celebrated hotel and restaurant in Loumarin, Provence, and this was one of the dishes chef Reine Sammut’s offered in her Mediterranean olive oil tasting lunch. She served the risotto topped with thin strips of braised cuttlefish, drizzled with a few drops of its deep black ink sauce. The seafood was excellent, but the fragrant, fruity rice was the real revelation to me.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

 

 

I didn’t get Sammut’s recipe, just a description, so this is my own rendition of the dish: a simple greens, garlic, herb, and lime risotto that I make often, using any leafy winter or spring greens, and all or some of the herbs on the list, whatever my garden provides. When I don’t have fresh herbs I use the ones I often freeze; unfortunately even good dried herbs will not give the same rich result.

I conclude by folding-in grated Parmesan, which brings out the flavors of the herbs, and very often top the risotto with a 7-minute cooked egg; the deeply-flavored ones from our neighbor’s hens.

You can also serve along with Baked or roasted Fish, or complement the risotto with grilled Halloumi.

 

Serves 4-6 as main course; 6-8 as a side dish

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