My daughter E. lives for pasta, which is kind of a shame because I rarely cook it. When I do, all too often it’s one of her favorite (but boring) dishes: veggie lo mein, spaghetti with “meat” sauce, or macaroni and “cheese.” Every now and then she gets lucky and I go all out with lasagna, but more often than not, I stick to easy stuff that I know she likes. Usually I’m only making it because I’m short on time–or because E.’s pleading has gotten to me.
Last night I was making pasta for a special occasion: my husband D. had been away for the past four days, and E. and I wanted to welcome him home with a special meal. Not that he needed it; he was in D.C. gorging himself at Thai, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Ethiopian restaurants. After I got over the disappointment that he wasn’t able to bring me an Ethiopian doggy bag, I resolved to make his homecoming special and make something a little different. And I even followed (mostly) a recipe!
This is an adaptation of Siracusa Market Pasta in Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Italian Country Table. It’s not a vegetarian book, but this recipe, without the optional cheese, was actually vegan as written. I adapted it only slightly, adding chickpeas and using a few drops of olive oil rather than a “film.” Without any fresh basil on hand, I had to resort to the last of my frozen basil from last summer, but that didn’t hurt the taste at all. The results were truly delicious, tangy with orange zest, salty with olives, and spicy with garlic and red pepper flakes. The basil and cherry tomatoes keep it fresh and light. This one’s a keeper!
- a few drops of olive oil - OPTIONAL, see Notes below
- 6 – 8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 medium red onion, diced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- zest of one orange
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
- 1 pound spaghetti (gluten-free folks try Tinkyada rice pasta)
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
- 1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil or 1/2 cup frozen chopped basil, thawed
- 16 kalamata or oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (larger ones quartered)
- Put a large pot of water on to boil.
- Rub the bottom of a large (12-inch or more) deep skillet with a few drops of olive oil. Sauté the garlic just until it becomes golden. Remove from skillet and set aside. (If you prefer to use no oil, see Notes below.) Add the onion to the skillet and saute until soft, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the orange zest, oregano, and red pepper and cook about 30 seconds more. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When the water reaches a boil, add the pasta and salt to taste. When the pasta is almost done (firm to the bite), add the drained chickpeas and cook until the pasta is completely done. Remove one cup of the cooking water and add it to the onions in the skillet. Drain the pasta.
- Add the reserved garlic to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the basil and olives and stir. Add the pasta and toss to coat completely. Stir in the tomatoes and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Heat a large, deep skillet. Add the onion and sauté until it softens, adding water by the tablespoon if it starts to stick. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add the orange zest, oregano, and red pepper and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside. Since the garlic has not been reserved, ignore the mention of it in step 4 and just bring the contents of the skillet to a boil.
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