How can something so simple be so good?
A few years ago my wife and I spent a weekend in Naples, the one in Italy, where we had pasta with chickpeas. The dish was life-changing. It’s so easy to prepare, so hearty and healthy, I can’t understand why I don’t cook it more often. Like every week.
Now, about those chicks. When I have the time and my wits about me, I stop by a local Iraqi market and buy dried chickpeas, soak them over night, and cook them up (low heat, olive oil, salt and pepper) for a couple hours. Otherwise, when I am witless, which is more often the case, I buy canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans, we say in the U.S.), rinse them, and get right down to business.
And the business is this:
I like a big onion, the size of a baseball or bigger, which I chop and saute in olive oil. To this saute I add the chickpeas (today three cans, rinsed and drained). I’ll roll the chicks in the onion saute at medium-high heat for five minutes or so, then add enough water to cover the contents of the pan. Fresh rosemary recommended.
I am a devotee to flavor in the can—a bouillon-like product. I know, I know: I should have stock, or broth, and not having it marks me as a hack. But a happy, exceedingly well-fed hack.
Along with a tablespoon of flavor in the can, maybe a little more salt and pepper. To taste, as they say. Someone says that. Then I cover the pot and let it cook on medium for 15 minutes or so, cooking down the water. What the heck—a little more olive oil too.
Then comes the machine.
I’ll use a hand-held blender and puree about half the chickpea-onion combo, which produces a dense, creamy, amazing sauce—but still some of the chickpeas are whole and visible and, well, definitive.
I usually have fresh pasta lying around, a fugitive nest of tagliatelle or pappardelle I didn’t cook. In fact, I make a point of keeping the stuff handy, for pasta fagioli. And for this dish.
Next, a sensitive operation, this takes practice: gather said nest of tagliatelle in your hand and crush it. Or if you are a lover of truth and precise in these matters (witness, if you are not a hack, your use of stock or broth), you can use the real deal—maltagliati. A couple handfuls suffice. Cook the pasta apart from the chickpeas, or if there’s enough broth with your peas, toss the pasta in the pan with the chickpeas. You’ll want 7-10 minutes. That’s what I did today, right in the pan, adding just a little water as needed to keep the dish from becoming overly dry and sludgy.
Eat it like soup, though it’s only vaguely that. Add a little Parmigiano if you are cheesy. (Be good to yourself: make sure it’s Parmigiano-Reggiano.) Or don’t cheese it.
This dish is so simple and delicious, you won’t want to live without it. And why should you?