Don’t you love recipes that can be thrown together in minutes, yet are healthful and over-the-top delicious?
Today’s orecchiette easily fulfills all the above conditions. The tender-yet-robust chickpeas happily provide protein even as the copious amounts of spinach leaves lighten the load. The sweet pimentón coats everything with its seductive smokiness, while the shavings of nutty Manchego cheese and the drizzle of herbaceous olive oil made with the delicate Arbequina Spanish olives bestow the perfect last touch.
Hearty, smoky, savory, this pasta dish delivers heaps of flavor and leaves you feeling utterly satisfied.
Note: In the last few years, outstanding olive oils produced in the US have become readily available. Try California Olive Ranch‘s fabulous Arbequina olive oil. It’s fresh, fruity and it’ll be perfect for this pasta.
Food & wine pairing: Rioja or Ribera del Duero Tempranillo with spinach and chickpea orecchiette
Serve a Tempranillo from Spain with this pasta… you won’t be disappointed! Rioja is, of course, the first place that comes to mind, but I also love the wines of Ribera del Duero, an appellation southwest of Rioja that delivers deep, bold, mineral wines that are a joy to discover and sip.
Orecchiette with wilted spinach, chickpeas and Pimentón
active time: 20 min
For the pasta
- 1 tablespoon sea salt for the pasta water
- 12 oz (340 g) Orecchiette
- 1/3 cup Arbequina extra virgin olive oil
- 8 large garlic cloves – skinned and thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne or to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Pimentón Dulce (Spanish smoked, sweet paprika)
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas – drained
- 12 oz (340 g) baby spinach – rinsed and spun dry
- 1/3 cup cooking liquid from chickpeas or pasta water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup Manchego shavings as garnish (use a vegetable hand-peeler)
- Arbequina extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Step 1: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the salt and the pasta. Cook pasta until tender but still al dente. Drain well.
- Step 2: While the pasta is cooking, heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and garlic. Sauté for 30 seconds until the garlic begins to sizzle, stirring constantly and making sure it doesn’t brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Step 3: About 3 minutes before the pasta is ready, reheat the garlic oil over high heat. As soon as the garlic sizzles, add the cayenne, pimentón and chickpeas. Toss well and add half of the spinach. Toss the spinach with two spoons, as if you were tossing a salad, until wilted (this should take about 30 seconds. If it takes longer, it means your pan is not hot enough. Make sure to keep your pan on high heat). Add the balance of the spinach and continue tossing until wilted, about 1 minute. Add the pasta, cooking liquid from chickpeas or pasta water, salt and pepper. Toss quickly so that the pan doesn’t dry and remove from heat. Spoon pasta into bowls. Garnish with Manchego shavings, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve immediately.