Thursday, 7 February 2013

Pantry Pasta, or Chickpea and Tomato Rotinis

Do you remember my super-basic garlic pasta? This recipe also comes from a time when I had to scrape my brain to figure out ways to eat good food without busting an extremely tight budget. Listen up, students and artists: one of the tricks to accomplishing that feat is to have a well-stocked pantry, full of non-perishable items on which you can fall back safely when there is no more dough for fresh produce.

Pasta, canned tomatoes and a selection of canned beans are things you should always have within reach, no matter what your budget is, because they are inexpensive, versatile and can make tasty and healthy bases to many great meals. You can get endlessly creative with basic ingredients like that if you have a little imagination.

Since all the ingredients for this recipe are pantry-staples in my kitchen, I nicknamed it Pantry Pasta: it makes a really tasty and filling bowl of saucy beans and pasta (pasta e fagoli is a theme Italians get very creative with), and the ordinary ingredients combined give a very rich flavor to every bite, despite being relatively cheap.

I love making some Pantry Pasta from time to time: it brings back wonderful memories of cooking in my tiny yellow kitchen before going to a rock show with friends... It has the nostalgic taste of the carefree and fun days of punk rock lifestyle: yummy, inexpensive to make... and vegan, with a hint of booze!

A word here about cooking with wine: I've read somewhere you should never cook with wine you would not drink. I say meh! Cooking with wine is my favorite technique to get rid of a lousy bottle I don't WANT to drink. The alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, leaving only the highlight of the wine's taste in the dish, so the only thing you really need to be concerned with is whether your wine is dry or sweet, depending on the desired effect. For this particular dish, a drier red wine is ideal. So that wood-chipper vino you got at a lousy gift-exchange back in December; now is the time to start using it for good!

1 package dry rotinis (pennes also work great here)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
1 (28 ounces) can crushed tomatoes
1 (19 ounces) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup dry red wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, ripped

Heat up the olive oil in a large pan, over medium heat. Cook the onion for 7 to 8 minutes, until softened.

Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, chili flakes, oregano, thyme and cumin. Cook for a few minutes, until fragrant.

Add the crushed tomatoes, chickpeas, red wine, the bay leaf and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package instructions, until al dente. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and add the fresh basil leaves. Add the pasta to the sauce, mix well and serve immediately.

You can serve it with some Parmigianno-Reggiano, if you are a cheese-fiend like me, but it's just as tasty in all it's vegan glory. I love chickpeas and their lovely chewy texture, and a seasoned tomato sauce is really their best friend: the cumin adds a subtle Middle Eastern hint to the otherwise very Italian ingredients of the sauce, making it exotic and mysterious.

This dish is a simple and homey dinner, and the leftovers make for a great, filling and healthy lunch that will keep you powered until the end of the day. Of course, if the wine you used in the sauce is to your taste, I won't discourage you for having a glass along with your pasta...

No comments:

Post a Comment