Orecchiette with wilted spinach, chickpeas and Pimentón

Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach-Chickpeas and Pimenton

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.

Olive oil

Food & wine pairing: Rioja or Ribera del Duero Tempranillo with spinach and chickpea orecchiette

Red wine iconServe 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.

Spinach in bowl

Orecchiette with wilted spinach, chickpeas and Pimentón

serves 4
active time: 20 min

For the pasta

  1. 1 tablespoon sea salt for the pasta water
  2. 12 oz (340 g) Orecchiette
  3. 1/3 cup Arbequina extra virgin olive oil
  4. 8 large garlic cloves – skinned and thinly sliced
  5. 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne or to taste
  6. 1 1/2 tablespoons Pimentón Dulce (Spanish smoked, sweet paprika)
  7. 2 cups cooked chickpeas – drained
  8. 12 oz (340 g) baby spinach – rinsed and spun dry
  9. 1/3 cup cooking liquid from chickpeas or pasta water
  10. 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
  11. freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. 3/4 cup Manchego shavings as garnish (use a vegetable hand-peeler)
  2. Arbequina extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach-Chickpeas and Pimenton

pasta, orecchiette, spinach, chickpeas


  1. Pingback: Dominio de Pingus, Ribera del Duero PSI | Food & Style

  2. Thank you for the wonderful recipe! Bravo! I used fresh made pata from pastaworks. Next time, mostly for my reference, I will also sauté mushrooms and use less cayenne for kid palette. Que bueno!

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  4. Vivianne: Very tasty, but I found that using the largest pan I own, a 12″ saute pan, 12 oz. of spinach is overwhelming. I was impossible to wilt it properly. I wound up with sauteed spinach. It’s deceptively easy, and then gets complicated at the last minute because the wilting seems to have to start before the pasta is draining. It was still delicious, but not quite right. Any tips?

    • Hi Steven! Thank you so much for letting me know about the trouble with the spinach. It’s comments like yours that make me a better recipe writer, so I’m most appreciative to you for taking the time to write.
      I also use a 12″ skillet for this recipe. It has high edges though (I’m not sure if yours does).
      Two tips:
      – Add the spinach in two batches. As soon as the first batch has wilted, add the balance.
      – Your pan was most likely not hot enough when you added the spinach. I cook with pans that have a very heavy bottom and it takes a while for them to heat up, but once they’re hot, they really deliver a lot of heat. The spinach should wilt within 30 seconds. If it doesn’t, it means your pan wasn’t hot enough. This is the pan I use: http://bit.ly/K2HRXZ. It’s the workhorse in my kitchen. I use it to cook just about everything and it delivers incredible results.
      I’ll add more details to the recipe in a few minutes. Thank you again for your comment and happy cooking!

  5. This dish looks so yummy. We also recommend you a dish of Puglia called “Orecchiette alla cima di Rapa”.

  6. Pingback: Orecchiette with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Pimentón « Pâte à Chew

  7. I wish I could have that bowl of pasta for the lunch! More spinach please.
    Happy New Year!

  8. What a wonderfully simple yet satisfying meal. Always the best. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. WoW! That is an amazing pasta dish! I love wilted spinach in pasta and orechiette is a favorite shape

  10. Pingback: Dominio de Pingus, Ribera del Duero Ψ PSI 2009, paired with orecchiette — food & style

  11. Hi, That looks so tasty. Just the cure i think for me the day after a night of indulgence.

  12. This is definitely my kind of meal at the end of a long day. I’m looking forward to trying it.

  13. Gorgeous! I’m not sure I can find orecchiette here, but I’ll certainly look. Either way, I’m sure I can find a why to rock this spinach, chickpea combo of Yum!

    • Parsley Sage, The orecchiette are certainly a super delicious pasta shape, but you could make this recipe with more common shapes like penne rigate, mezzi rigatoni or spaghetti and get good results. Buen appetito!

  14. Julie Fordyce

    We had it for lunch today and it was a big hit. “This is one of Viviane’s” I told Jim. He looked pensive. “So no meat,” he said — then he brightened. “But it will be delicious!” And it was, even though I found I had no cayenne pepper (who doesn’t have cayenne pepper??) and substituted ancho chili powder. And used canellini beans instead of garbanzos, and pecorino instead of manchego . . . Next time I’ll hew more closely to the original recipe!

    • Julie! What a fun story… I hope you ran to the market and got cayenne for future culinary adventures! I can’t wait for you to try the recipe with the chickpeas though. Their flavor and texture is essential here. The cannellini beans are much too creamy for this recipe… Please tell Jim I’m grateful that he’s such a good sport when it comes to missing his meat!

  15. You are an inspiration! Between your stunning photos and lovely recipes, I’m always leaving here with a new idea! Lovely pasta dish~

  16. This is really perfect–exactly my kind of dinner. Orecchiette is an underused pasta shape, and I love it with vegetarian sauces.

  17. Oh I love this recipe!So simple yet so flavorful and colorful, can’t wait to make it.Thanks for sharing 🙂

  18. Great combination of flavours… it reminds me of Southern Spain, somehow (must be the pimenton). I know I wouldn’t miss meat at all if I had a big bowl of this pasta in front of me right now!

  19. This is my kind of pasta dish–simple, unfussy yet satisfying. I love using paprika but I admit I haven’t used it this way. I have some pimenton that I will happily use for this recipe. I love the Spanish flair of this entire dish!

  20. This looks great! I love that you use pimenton, what a great ingredient! And I second Kiri’s comment about the photograph – great pictures!

  21. I love the bite of orechiette! The combination of spinach and spinach is such a winner, and the kick from the pimento must be great! 🙂
    As always, I’m in love with your photography!

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