Pasta and legumes are a classic, wonderfully starchy and comforting combination that you can find in many Italian regions, especially from Tuscany going southwards, where beans and chickpeas are grown. Pasta with chickpeas can take on many different guises – there are versions stained with tomato, those with a portion of the chickpeas pureed (my preference is about a third kept whole), those that are more a soup with a little pasta floating in it, and those made with short pasta.
This version is my favourite – it’s so simple, incredibly quick and satisfying. The chickpeas are very simply flavoured with some garlic (a must) and rosemary. You could also add some anchovies melted down in a little olive oil with the garlic for some extra savouriness, if you like. I like using a silky, fresh egg pasta like tagliolini because it cooks quickly, directly in the sauce, but you could use any regular dried pasta too.
It should go without saying that with a dish as simple as this one, the quality of the ingredients is paramount – I cannot stress how important this is for the chickpeas (dried or tinned) and the final touch of olive oil, especially.
IngredientS (SERVES 4)
200 grams of dried chickpeas (or 600gr pre-cooked, tinned chickpeas)
1 garlic clove
1 sprig rosemary
200 grams dried tagliolini
extra virgin olive oil, for serving
handful of finely grated pecorino or parmesan, optional
400 grams of fresh tagliolini (or 320 grams of dried pasta such as linguine)
If you’re using dried chickpeas, put them in a bowl covered with plenty of fresh cold water the night before and leave them to soak in the fridge.
The next day, drain the soaked chickpeas and place them in a saucepan, cover with at least 3cm of fresh water, add the garlic and rosemary and simmer until the chickpeas are soft – keep an eye on it, scoop off any scum that rises to the top of the water and top up with water if needed. Add salt to taste at the end.
If using tinned chickpeas, place 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan with the garlic clove and rosemary and, over low, gentle heat, let the oil infuse. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning the garlic and ensuring it doesn’t burn or colour too deeply. Add the chickpeas and enough water to cover by 3cm, add a good pinch of salt and bring to a simmer; cook 10 minutes.
Remove the rosemary from the stick and blend the chickpeas and the liquid that they were cooking in to make a smooth puree (if you prefer a bit of texture, you can set aside a third of the whole chickpeas before you do this). Pour back into the pan, season to taste and heat, adding enough extra water (about 500 ml) for it to be a creamy, quite fluid, but not too thick sauce.
Once simmering cook the tagliolini directly in the sauce until al dente. If using fresh pasta, this will only take about 5 minutes; if using dried pasta, cook it separately in a pot of water until half-cooked, then add it to the sauce to finish cooking (if you need to top the sauce up with any water in this case you can use the pasta cooking water). Stir occasionally to ensure the pasta isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Let it sit for a moment or two before serving as it will be piping hot and it needs to cool just a little to be best enjoyed. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper, then pour over your very best extra virgin olive oil – a bright, peppery, green olive oil is the thing you need.
If you like (I do), add a handful of grated pecorino or parmesan over the top.
This recipe is an edited extract taken from Acquacotta by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant Books RRP AUD$50 and is available in stores nationally.