A seasonal and hearty dish from Salento with a twist; a garnish of deep fried pasta, nutty, crunchy and golden brown.
As seasons change warming and hearty dishes find their way onto our Puglia Kitchen table more frequently. An early favorite is this Salento chickpea and pasta dish, one that exemplifies Puglia’s cooking tradition of la cucina povera. Simple and inventive and certainly more than the sum of its ingredients.
Pasta served up in a comforting chickpea broth come sauce, with added value. Some of the fresh pasta is deep fried and served on top. Nutty, crisp and golden brown bringing another level of taste and texture to our table.
Ingredients | Serves 4 as a main 6 as primo
chickpeas | 400g, we use canned and the liquor
2 onions | one quartered, one diced
1 carrot | large, sliced into three chunks
1 celery stick | sliced in half
1 clove garlic
1 red chilli | deseeded and finely chopped
chopped tomatoes | 400g
extra virgin olive oil | 6 tablespoons for the recipe
plus extra for deep-frying (sunflower oil can be used instead) and drizzling
fresh pasta | 500g, we use maltagliate or strangozzi
but you can cut fresh lasagne sheets into approx. 5cm x 1cm strips
flat leaf parsley | q.b. (quanto basta, to taste)
though be generous at least 2 tablespoons
pecorino | freshly grated, for serving (or Parmesan).
salt, pepper | q.b. for seasoning
bay leaf or rosemary | 2 leaves or 1 large sprig, optional for flavor
1. Put the quartered onion, sliced carrot and celery stick and garlic clove in a saucepan. Add approximately half the can of chickpeas and half of its liquor and 400ml of water. Simmer gently with a lid on the pan until the carrot, celery and onion are cooked. Add water if necessary. We set this aside to cool a little before blending with a hand blender. Alternatively you can ladle it into a food processor to blend.
We add a glug of extra virgin olive oil to the blended chickpea sauce.
2. In a separate saucepan add the olive oil and the diced onion. Fry until translucent. Add the rest of the chickpeas and their liquor, 400ml of water and the bay or rosemary if you are using them for flavour. Allow it to cook gently for 5 minutes then add the chopped tomatoes and simmer gently until the tomatoes have relaxed into the sauce.
3. Time to deep fry the pasta. Take around a third of the fresh pasta and carefully drop into hot oil. We use our olive oil, but you can use sunflower oil instead if it is more economic. Be careful not to let the pasta burn. It should be golden brown. When it is, remove with a slotted spoon and place on some paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
4. Cook the remaining fresh pasta in salted boiling water. Do not overlook the importance of salting the water. It does make a difference to the flavor of the pasta.
5. Add the blended chickpea sauce to the pan with the cooked whole chickpeas. We add around half of it to start, then see how we get on. The aim is to end up with a consistency somewhere between a broth and a sauce. We also slacken it with around 200ml of the pasta cooking liquor. Any blended chickpea sauce can be frozen for the next time, or for a stand-alone pasta dressing.
Now is the time to season the chickpea sauce. We wait until we have added the pasta liquor which has already been well salted. Turn off the heat.
6. Drain the cooked pasta. It should be al dente. Add it to the chickpea mix. Stir gently until the two are combined. We put the lid back on the pan, and let it stand off the heat for approximately 5 minutes, to settle and to make sure the pasta and sauce are well acquainted.
7. Dish up. Top with the fried pasta, grated pecorino, a sprinkle of parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.