Sicilian Market Pasta

by on April 2, 2007
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Sicilian Market Pasta

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!

Sicilian Market Pasta
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
  • 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)
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Alternate Step 2 Without Oil:

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.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/6th of recipe Calories: 398 Fat: 5g Carbohydrates: 73g Sodium: 173mg Fiber: 4g Protein: 14g

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This low- or no-oil vegan adaptation of Siracusa Market Pasta is tangy with orange zest, salty with olives, and spicy with garlic and red pepper flakes.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Krista June 1, 2010 at 8:52 am

I was reminded of this recipe this morning on facebook, it’s one of my favourites for sure. I make it all the time in the summer, sometimes I leave out the chick peas and throw in toasted pine nuts, almonds or pumpkin seeds (or a little combo of all of them). My kids love this recipe too, thanks Susan!


2 Gara June 1, 2010 at 9:18 am

I am growing my first garden and you mentioned you had frozen basil…can you do that with other herbs such as cilantro. We realized we planted enough for a small village…and we hate it to go to waste.


3 SusanV June 1, 2010 at 9:38 am

Freezing works for all herbs that I can think of. I would freeze cilantro just like I do basil, but for others, you might do an internet search before freezing. For basil, I put the leaves in the food processor with enough water to help them blend and pulse to chop fine. Then I freeze in ice cube trays. Once they’re completely frozen, I pop them out of the trays and into a freezer bag. A cube or two added to a soup or pasta dish during the winter really gives it a touch of summer.


4 Lucy June 1, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Every summer basil is the first that I plant. I also freeze it in ice cubes and then I put it in plastic bags. I also do pesto sauce and freeze it to last for the year until the next planting season. I prefer to dry the cilantro. When using frozen cilantro you need to defrost only what is going to be use because it gets very soggy. Is better to use the same method as with the basil. Cilantro has been in my Puertorrican diet all my life.I love it.


5 Renee June 1, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Yum! This one is getting bookmarked!
And I love the how you freeze your basil. I might have to try that.


6 Almiel April 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I wonder if you could do a pine nut butter to replace the oil? This came to mind because I had engine 2 stir fry w/ cashew sauce last week. The cashew sauce made it like fried rice w/o the oil.


7 Susan Voisin April 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

The only oil in this is the quick spray or wipe to keep the garlic from burning. It contributes virtually no fat to the recipe. Pine nut butter would be a tasty addition I’m sure, but it would probably make the garlic more apt to burn, not less.


8 Linda Dale April 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Susan, I don’t eat pasta because it has virtually no nutritional value, but I’ll be eating it once in a while now that I’ve discovered Black Bean Spaghetti by “Explore Asian.” It has SO much flavor! It’s gluten-free (if you care), contains no ingredients besides organic black beans and water, and one serving has 25g of protein! My daughter found it at a small specialty grocery store and I found it online at Explore Asian also makes a Mung Bean Fettucine, which we haven’t tried yet but sounds promising. 🙂


9 ellen April 13, 2015 at 11:24 pm

My family just loved the Sicilian Maket Pasta recipe. We’ve tying new menu habits and your site definitely is appealing with the wonderful menu ideas and pictures to temp even the non vegan in the family. Thank you for providing such a great recipe that all at my table was thrilled to try and return for seconds.


10 Angela May 9, 2015 at 4:07 pm

How well does this hold up/taste if I make it night before serving? I would bring it to room temp then put it out.


11 Susan Voisin April 4, 2016 at 10:27 am

It would be perfect.


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