This simple, yet elegant chickpea pasta sauce with rosemary and spinach makes a satisfying weeknight dinner that needs just enough time for your pasta to cook up. And let’s face it – anything with chickpeas is a sure bet to please everyone.
Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, Bengal gram, Egyptian pea…
The popularity of chickpeas or garbanzo beans as they are also known, extends beyond just the plant-based or vegan community of diners. Chickpeas enjoy a healthy trend on Google and for good reason, they are super healthy and they are a formidable culinary player for anyone with food allergies or dietary restrictions.
That delicious mixture of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice is possibly one of the best spreads ever. I’m talking hummus and apparently a lot of folks are talking hummus these days. But chickpeas are also common is cuisines of the world including Indian, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian and Turkish.
A safe bet
You'll find chickpeas dried, canned or as flour although today you can find them in ready made pasta, snacks and much more. And in addition to their wonderful versatility, chickpeas are also inexpensive. But of course, most importantly, chickpeas taste great. Don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to run into anyone who didn’t like them. This makes chickpeas a safe bet when you are feeding company (even those who don’t routinely eat plant-based).
What are chickpeas?
In short, a legume. Although Indian is the largest producer and consumer of these tasty nuggets, they originally hale from Turkey and along with Ethiopian, these countries represent 83% of all the chickpeas grown.
Chickpeas are also quite environmentally friendly and are mostly grown using just rain water. The U.C. Davis Climate resilience and nutrition in chickpea lab concludes that because chickpeas naturally create their own nitrogen, they don’t require added fertilizer makes them highly climate resilient and sustainable.
Although Desi chickpeas, small with dark interiors, are the most popular worldwide, Kabuli, large and beige with a thin skin are increasingly common in American groceries stories. They’re the ones you generally find in the cans lined up on the store shelves. You might also run into chickpeas the look like green peas and have a sweet flavor than the other kinds.
What’s to love about chickpea pasta sauce
So much. So darned much. Start out by sautéing the chickpeas along with the fresh rosemary, red chili flakes and black pepper. If you’ve never sautéed chickpeas before, don’t let them make you jump. After about 5 minutes, as they heat up in the middle, they’ll start to pop. After 7-8 minutes, they will brown and get a bit firmer. That’s when you can take out about half of them to add at the end of the cooking process.
Making the light, creamy sauce
Another thing to love about this chickpea sauce is that it’s so simple, yet elegant. I used shallots rather than onions because they are a bit sweeter, but you could substitute the same amount of red onion with close to the same effect. One you’ve added the garlic (I used 3 cloves to get the flavor rolling), you’ll just add the plant milk and aquafaba. I also mashed some of the remaining chickpeas as I sautéed the scallions and garlic. This gives the sauce a bit of depth and thickness.
At this point, numerous articles and probably entire books have been written about aquafaba. Yes, the liquid in a can of chickpeas has amazing properties (who would have known that?). In the case of our chickpea sauce with rosemary and spinach, we’ll use aquafaba to help thicken the plant milk. I always reserve extra when I plan on using it so I can adjust the thickness. Aquafaba is also an ingredient that I like using in things like burgers (chickpea burgers) because they help with the binding process. Experiment a bit and use it to thicken some of your other sauces. It’s a great trick to have in your cooking belt and one that costs nothing extra and has a taste that doesn’t overpower.
A bit of lemon with the spinach
I find that chopped spinach with some squeezed lemon is a great finale. In addition to bringing a pinch of zest to your pasta, the acid in the lemon brings out the color of the spinach. If you use baby spinach, you probably won’t need to chop it. Likewise, you can use any other green including kale in place of the spinach.
Now, add the pasta
Chickpea sauce with rosemary and spinach is best served with long pasta such as spaghetti or in my case, tagliatelle. Because the sauce is quick and simple with just a tiny bit of prep involved, you can cook it up in just the time the pasta takes to cook, so start that first. I didn’t drain, I just used tongs to transfer it to the skillet with the sauce and gave it a quick mix before serving it with a few additional lemon wedges. Hemp seed Parmesan or another vegan Parmesan also makes a wonderful garnish if you’re so inclined.
Don’t forget about the other half of the chickpeas you set aside. That’s the main topper for your pasta. And congratulate yourself that you resisted eating those set aside chickpeas – or maybe you decided to hedge your bets and you used 2 cans. When it comes to chickpeas, it happens.
You’ll be pleased at how this lite sauce clings to the pasta you chose and makes a satisfying and complete dinner. You can accompany this with a mixed side salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette made with lemon juice, garlic and Italian herbs or crusty bread to scoop up the sauce. In the end, we didn’t bother and wasted little time getting to the main event.
Chickpeas. Curry, salads, snacking. I love ‘em and can’t resist grabbing a few as soon as I pop open the can and drain them. I never regret those little side snacks of something this healthy and guilt-free. There was a time when I relied on salted nuts or chips to get that fix.
Maybe I just replaced one snack habit with another, but I don’t dwell on that with regret. I know myself and I when I decided to be more conscious about what I was eating, I decided to approach that with a bit of realism this time. If having a bowl of hummus on hand along with a few dip-ready veggies keeps you out of the cookie jar, then heck ya, I say. Replace, don’t deprive – that’s one strategy to keep you on that forward path. Peace.Print
Chickpea pasta sauce with rosemary and spinach, shallots, garlic and lemon needs enough time for the pasta to cook up to make a great plant-based dinner.
- 12 ounces spaghetti or tagliatelle
- 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained with ¼ cup of the liquid from the can (aquafaba) reserved
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ tsp. red chili flakes (more if you want it spicier)
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 shallots, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups plant milk (I used almond milk, but any you prefer will be fine)
- 3 cups rough chopped fresh spinach
- The juice of ½ lemon, cut the other half in wedges for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.
- In a large skillet or medium pot, add the chickpeas, rosemary, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Stir the chickpeas occasionally until they start to brown and pop (5-7 minutes).
- Use a spoon to transfer about half the chickpeas to a bowl.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallots and garlic to the skillet, and sauté until the shallots are soft (about 1 minute). season with salt and pepper.
- Add the plant milk and 2 tablespoons of aquafaba. Stir to mix everything and allow it to simmer on low for about 5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Add the chopped spinach and the lemon juice. Stir to wilt the spinach (about 3 minutes). Taste to check for seasoning.
- Once the pasta is done, turn off the heat and using tongs, transfer the pasta to the skillet. Mix well.
- Top with the reserved chickpeas and serve with lemon wedges as a garnish.
- Nutritional information includes the pasta.
- If you want to skip the aquafaba (or you forget to collect it when you drain the chickpeas), you can use a teaspoon of arrowroot to help thicken the sauce. Just mix it with ½ cup of the plant milk before adding it to the skillet.
- Category: Main Course
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: chickpea pasta sauce with rosemary and spinach