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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spaghetti with Chickpeas

Sometimes I just need to eat plain old spaghetti - forget the whole wheat noodles and the Barilla Plus. I justified my indulgence with the fact that we were running a four-mile race the next morning. The last mile was all uphill as well! I'm crediting the pasta with our success in reaching the finish line (no walking either!). Whether you are training for a race or in the mood for an interesting twist on spaghetti in red sauce, you need to try this recipe!

Some of the chickpeas are pureed to make a thick sauce while the rest are left whole and add additional layers of texture. When mixed with the basil and the pancetta, I think the chickpea sauce had an almost cinnamony-flavor to it. We used pre-diced pancetta (time saver), but I would have preferred larger pieces to add even more texture and bigger flavor. You'll need to be generous with the salt and the chile flakes (make sure to taste the sauce before serving).

This recipe takes some time, but it's not hard. Just saute the onions, pancetta, garlic and chile flakes.

Mix in the tomatoes, basil and pureed chickpea mixture. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

When the sauce has cooked down, add in the cooked pasta, reserved pasta water and whole chickpeas and toss to coat.

Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese, and then you are ready to fuel up for that race (or a night of intense TV-watching)! Thanks to the lovely Caitlin for her many contributions to this post - she makes a great hand model, don't you think?

Spaghetti with Chickpeas
Adapted From Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a first course

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken stock
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup pancetta, diced (a little shy of 4 ounces)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch chile flakes
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
20-25 basil leaves
Salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Set 2/3 cup of chickpeas aside. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining chickpeas with chicken stock and pulse a few times until chickpeas are pureed.

Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil and diced pancetta. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly brown. Add onions, garlic, and chile flakes. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add chickpea mixture, tomatoes, and basil, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until al dente, or tastes like it could use an additional minute’s cooking time. Reserve one to two cups of pasta water and drain the rest. Toss pasta with chickpea sauce, reserved chickpeas and half of the reserved pasta water until evenly coated and heated through, about one minute. If sauce still feels too thick add reserved pasta water as needed.

Season again, as needed, and serve with grated Parmesan to pass.

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