Mafalda corta with chickpeas and za’atar

It’s been a while since I’ve opened my Ottolenghi recipe book, Simple. This week I felt it was time to cook something different from the usual curries I’ve been making of late. I thought it might be nice to revisit a previous chickpea and pasta recipe, which I recall was very tasty.

This time round it felt, simpler to assemble. It was rather soothing to be peeling, chopping and grating in the Saturday morning sunshine.

The smells generated while the chickpea mixture was on the cooker were also quite nice too. Calming, fragrant and not overpowering at all.

The original recipe uses gigli pasta. In the recipe notes we are told

Gigli means ‘lilies’ in Italian, and their floral wavy edges are a great vehicle for the chickpeas and anchovies in the sauce. Orecchiette (ears) or conchiglie (shells) are also good for scooping and work really well here, too.

I did not have any of those three pasta types. Instead I had Mafalda corta in my cupboard. A quick Wikipedia search later I discover:

Mafaldine, also known as reginette (Italian for little queens) or simply mafalda or mafalde, is a type of ribbon-shaped pasta. It is flat and wide, usually about 1 cm (½ inch) in width, with wavy edges on both sides. Mafaldine were named in honor of Princess Mafalda of Savoy (thus the alternative name “little queens”).

The final product, made for a lovely Saturday afternoon lunch. Difficult to describe the dish, save for saying it has warm flavours and made me feel good.

I needed to feel good because it’s been a somewhat full-on week. Although I started with a few days of restful annual leave (my last for this financial year), the last two working days of the week were packed beyond belief and, as well as events in my personal life, I thought I was going to break. I really did. As usual it’s time in the kitchen, under my control, creating something that I like, that saves me.

Ingredients

45ml olive oil, plus extra to serve

½ onion, peeled and finely chopped (100g prepped weight)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

10g thyme leaves, finely chopped

25g anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped (about 7)

1 lemon: finely shave the skin of ½, then juice to get 2 tbsp

2 x 400g tins of cooked chickpeas, drained (480g drained weight)

1 tsp soft brown sugar

400ml chicken stock

200g gigli pasta (or conchiglie or orecchiette)

50g baby spinach leaves

15g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1½ tsp za’atar seasoning

salt and black pepper

Method

1. Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan and place on a high heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, anchovies, lemon skin, ½ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until soft and golden. Reduce the heat to medium high, then add the chickpeas and sugar and fry for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas begin to brown and crisp up. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and simmer for 6 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside. You can make this in advance, if you like, and warm through before serving.

2. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. Stir the spinach and parsley into the chickpeas: the residual heat of the sauce should cook the spinach, but if it doesn’t wilt, just warm the chickpeas gently on the stove. Transfer the pasta to the pan of chickpeas and stir to combine. Divide among four bowls and sprinkle the za’atar on top. Finish with a drizzle of oil and serve.

3 Comments on “Mafalda corta with chickpeas and za’atar

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