This is a perennial favourite in Naples and the South of Italy. It is a one-pot delicious meal, fast, economical, utterly satisfying and basically, you just cannot go wrong here.
In this recipe, you have two options: one, just use chickpeas (ceci) or two, use ceci and broad beans (fava).
Combining fava and chickpeas is a bit of an enhancement to the chickpea-only recipe and it is inspired by the fact that I had a box of Hodmedod’s split dried fava beans. Oh and did you know, that Britain is the world’s largest producer of fava beans? It is a somewhat forgotten traditional pulse in the UK, so most of them end up in the Middle East where they still love them a lot. Fava beans are also very much used in Neapolitan cooking, so it feels right on a number of levels to use them in this dish.
You can use canned chickpeas or dry. In terms of canned chickpeas, I like the smaller, somewhat harder ones that you can get in supermarket own-brand, organic line, but the large and soft Italian ones are good too.
Instead of canned chickpeas, you can use dried chickpeas. You will need to soak them overnight with lots of water and a teaspoon of baking soda.
This dish keeps very well and leftovers are wonderful. Serves two.
- 200g pasta (short type)
- 200g dried split fava/broad beans (optional), rinsed
- 1 can chickpeas (drained) or 3/4 of a cup dried chickpeas (soaked overnight, then rinsed)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon asafoetida (optional) or 2 inch piece of kombu, rinsed (optional, both of these ingredients aid digestion)
- 2 teaspoons chili flakes or one fresh or dried chili, chopped (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons flax meal (optional, but good for extra Omegas and creaminess)
- pinch of fresh parsley, chopped
- glug olive oil
In a large saucepan, heat up the garlic, asafoetida/kombu and chili flakes in a bit of olive or other vegetable oil. Let the garlic get golden. Do not let the garlic burn, but keep it in the saucepan this time (I usually take it out to leave only the hint, but it melts into this dish and it is great).
If you will be using the fava beans or the dried/soaked chickpeas, then you will be cooking these first. Add them to the saucepan and cover with water with at least two fingers’ width extra. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until the chickpeas and the fava are tender. You will be cooking the pasta in this water along with the fava/chickpeas, so do not drain the water when the legumes are cooked.
If you will be using canned chickpeas only (and no fava beans), you will not need to pre-cook them as long as above, but you will want to roast them a little bit with the asafoetida/kombu, garlic, chili and olive oil. In this case, you will put them in when the garlic is golden and coat them with the fragrant mixture. This will take one or two minutes. Add the pasta and add water to just slightly cover the mixture.
Whether you are using the dried/soaked chickpeas plus fava or the canned chickpeas, do not add too much water to the legume and pasta mixture because you want the pasta to absorb it all. If you feel you need more water, add it as it is cooking. Add a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil, stir, cover and bring to a boil.
Once the water boils, lower the heat to medium/low and keep the mixture bubbling away gently for approximately 12 minutes or less (depending on your pasta – look at the package and see the recommended cooking time).
As it cooks, the fava, chickpeas and pasta will begin to amalgamate and become very creamy. Taste for seasoning halfway through the cooking process. When it’s all well amalgamated and cooked through, take off the burner, add the flax meal, parsley and, if you wish, a little bit of olive oil. Let the dish rest for a couple of minutes so the flavours can fully develop and then serve with vegan parmesan sprinkled on top or nutritional yeast or not, your choice.
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First published 9 February 2015