Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Spaghettini alla Ceci

I don't love Rachel Ray's afternoon talk show but I used to be a huge fan of "30 Minute Meals."  I learned this recipe from that show, jotting it down on the back of an envelope which is still tucked into the covers of one of my cookbooks.  Because I use the recipe so often, the envelope is tattered now, and splattered with bits tomato and olive oil.  We still enjoy this dish every time I make it.

Rachel called for canned chick peas in her recipe and I'm sure they're fine, but reconstituting dried beans is always less expensive than using beans from a can. 

Since it takes as much time and effort to cook a large quantity of dried beans as it does a small quantity, I cook a whole bunch at once and freeze the extras until I'm ready to use them.

To reconstitute dry beans, begin by sorting through them to remove any pepples of discoloured beans.  Rinse the remaining beans under cold water, then put them in a large measuring cup or bow.  Cover them with at least double their volume of cold water.

Let the beans soak overnight.  They'll increase in volume by a surprising amount.

Drain them and put them in the slow cooker.  Cover them with more cold water or vegetable stock and, if you wish to, add some carrot, tomato, onion, garlic, or thyme to the pot.  (You can use any or all of these but, since I was not sure what recipes I'd be using the beans for, I chose to leave them plain; just covering the beans by an inch or so with cold water.)  Don't salt the beans.  Salt makes them tough and they'll take forever to cook.

Cook the beans until they tender.  Times will vary according to the type and size of the beans you're using and how long they've been stored. 

Once the beans are cooked, drain them and let them cool.  Store them in airtight containers in either the fridge or freezer until you're ready to use them.

To make Spaghettini alla Ceci, you'll need:

  • 375 grams/13.25 ounces whole wheat spaghettini
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (These are optional.  Rachel used them, but my husband doesn't care for them so I don't use them.)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups reconstituted chick peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dry thyme (I was out of thyme so I used poultry seasoning this time.  It worked fine.)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used homemade, but stock from a box is fine too.)
  • 1- 398 milliliter/14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan to pass at the table
Boil the water for the pasta and cook the spaghettini to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, place the chick peas in the food processor and pulse grind them to a fine chop.

Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes if you're using them, and the garlic. Sauté the garlic for a few seconds, then add the chick peas, and the thyme.  Continue sautéeing for 3 to 4 minutes. 

Add the chicken stock and cook it down for 30 seconds or so, then stir in the tomatoes. 

Once the tomatoes are heated through, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.  Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce.  Let it cook for another minute or two.  

Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top it with the parsley.  Serve it immediately.  Pass the Parmesan around with the dish.

This recipe makes far more pasta than the two of us can eat at a single sitting.  Fortunately it freezes fairly well.  I let the leftovers cool and then package them in freezer safe, microwavable bowls. 

I defrost each portion in the microwave until the pasta is heated through, stirring in a little extra tomato or stock during the last minute of reheating.  

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