Tomato puree meets smoked paprika, chickpeas, chile flakes, and plenty of olive oil for a kicky, anytime pasta.
This dish came about from an abundance of chickpeas that were leftover after a shoot that Sarah and I styled for the New York Times. To prepare, I raided the bulk section of our co-op and lugged home about 20 pounds of pintos, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, cannellini, cranberry beans, and split peas. Since Sarah is a nursing mother, she decided to spare her baby the discomfort that sometimes results from an abundance of beans, and I ended up with a cupboard full of legumes.
Luckily, Jay and I love beans of every kind. We’ve been frying up pintos to put on tacos, boiling chickpeas for salads, and simmering lentils into hearty soups. One evening, a friend was coming to dinner and we had little in the house save for a ton of cooked chickpeas and a partial bottle of tomato passata in the fridge. Feeling very Iron Cheffy, I sautéed up some onions and garlic, threw in a bit of smoked paprika and red pepper flakes, and added the tomato puree and chickpeas. I tend to obsessively follow recipes, so I was proud of my improvising skillz… until I tasted the sauce. It was inedibly spicy. In an attempt to save it, I stirred in a ton of olive oil and grated parmesan, and coated the pasta in the barest film of the sauce.
Luckily, my dinner guest has a penchant for spice. She devoured her pasta and regaled us with stories of a time when she burned a hole in her stomach from eating too many hot peppers. Luckily, that fate didn’t happen from this dish, and I’ve subsequently toned things down by using these genius things called measuring spoons. I also added a mess of spinach and a handful of olives, which make this more of a one-bowl meal.
This pasta is super satisfying thanks to nutritious quinoa penne and protein-rich beans. The brick-red sauce gets a flavor boost from smoked paprika and just the right amount of chile. Briny olives provide depth, and a finish of flavorful olive oil and parmesan punch up the umami factor. Enjoy a bowl with a glass of red wine that you love.
Another nice thing about this recipe? It’s fairly inexpensive to make. Even using all organic ingredients, it clocks in at about $4.50 per hefty serving. Some bloggers I know are bringing awareness to the many Americans who go hungry every day with the campaign Foodies Fighting Hunger and I’m joining them with an affordable recipe of my own that also maintains my commitment to local, organic ingredients. Read more about how to get involved over at JewHungry and Mazon.
Thanks for reading! If you make this, show me by taking a photo for Instagram and tagging @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet. Many thanks for Cogworks for sponsoring the blog this month! Check out their site for beautiful wood serve boards and more.
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups (275 g) cooked chickpeas, drained (see note, below)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1-2 tablespoons (30 ml) for finishing
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon (5 g) smoked paprika
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
- 1¾ - 2 cups (475 ml) tomato puree or passata, or crushed tomatoes
- a splash of water
- ½ cup (2 ounces) pitted niçoise or kalamata olives, chopped
- 12 ounces dry penne or other small pasta (I like Ancient Harvest Quinoa Penne)
- 4 ounces (115 g) baby spinach, washed and spun dry (4 cups packed)
- 1-2 ounces parmesan, shaved or grated
- a small handful fresh oregano or basil, for garnish
- Fill a large saucepan with water, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Have the chickpeas cooked if you're making them from scratch (see note, below).
- Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a wide, non-reactive skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just starting to color, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the tomato puree and rinse the jar or can with a good splash of water, adding it to the sauce along with the chickpeas, olives, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a bare simmer, reduce the heat, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened a bit, 10 minutes. Stir in a few good turns of black pepper and taste for balance.
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve a splash of pasta water and drain the pasta well.
- Stir the spinach into the hot sauce until just wilted. Add the pasta to the sauce if it fits in the pan, otherwise toss the two together in a large bowl, adding reserved pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Spoon the pasta into bowls, and top each with a shower of herbs, a good drizzle of olive oil, and a whole lot of parmesan.