Pasta Fagioli

January’s finally here – which means that two of my favorite shows are back on TV with new seasons – Worst Cooks in America and MasterChef Junior. While one leaves my speechless at the ability of 8-13 year olds  (some of whom can barely look above a prep table without the help of a stool) to whip up delicious, and in some cases, highly technical, restaurant-quality dishes in short periods of time, the other leaves me speechless about how bad some people can actually be at cooking. Watching Anne Burrell on Worst Cooks in America is a real treat – she is one of my favorite celebrity chefs and there is nothing more entertaining than seeing her trying to teach cooking to someone who only cooks meatloaf in the shape of animals, someone who always burns meats because that means at least it’s cooked, and someone who made a pot roast and ended up….poisoning her dog. Suffice to say, people who are nominated on this show by their friends and family are nominated not just for their lack of cooking skills, but because they have also actually succeeded in making their loved ones fall quite ill with their food.

In between gaping disbelievingly at  one of the episodes this week, I  was reminded that I owned one of Burrell’s cookbooks (Cook Like a Rock Star) and I decided to flip through it to get some ideas for weekly lunches. I settled on pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian dish consisting of pasta and beans – it turned out to be a delicious, filling and an inexpensive and easily portable lunch. This particular version recommended using chives, but in my opinion, they didn’t add much to the dish, so for next time, I will prefer using basil.

Pasta Fagioli

Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rock Star

Directions

  • 1/4 pound pancetta, cut into quarter inch dice
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, mostly pureed with a few chunks (or according to your preference)
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 12 oz ditalini pasta
  • Freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Basil, chopped, for garnishing
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a wide pot and add pancetta. Over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it’s crisp (4-5 minutes).
  • Toss in the onion and season with salt, red pepper, oregano, and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and 1 and 1/4 cup water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes
  • Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.
  • Boil water in a well-salted large pot to cook the ditalini, which should be cooked only two-thirds of the way, being fairly hard in the middle.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and the water to the pot with the tomatoes and beans. Cook until pasta is done, for about another 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.
  • Serve sprinkled with Parmesan and chopped basil.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

If you’re in the mood for a healthy snack, or a low-stress party snack, these oven-roasted chickpeas are a great idea. Chickpeas are one of my favorite ingredients and I regularly use them in curries or with couscous. However, if you take off their outer skin and then roast them with a couple of spices, they shrivel up and turn into an addictive and crunchy snack. Mixing the chickpeas with the oil and spices takes less than 5 minutes, and then they need around 40 minutes to bake. So the next time you’re staring at a can of chickpeas wondering what to do, hummus isn’t the only option you should consider…

roasted chickpeas2

 

Ingredients

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, skins removed
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1.5 teaspoon grounds cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and dry by rolling them around in a kitchen towel.
  3. Combine the oil, paprika, cumin, garam masala cayenne and salt in a large bowl. Add chickpeas and toss to coat evenly. Transfer the chickpeas to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer.
  4. Bake until golden and crispy, 35 to 40 minutes (or when they acquire a crunchy texture), shaking the tray to toss after 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the chickpeas to a serving bowl.