While any pasta will do for this recipe, I’m partial to orecchiette, the “little ears” with cups the precise size to fit a chickpea within. If that wasn’t cute enough for this recipe to be in the regular dinner rotation, the ingredients make this a pantry meal easily stirred together even when you’ve been on the road talking bagels for several days.
Use canned chickpeas or the dried ones you cooked and froze last month in an unlikely moment of preplanning. No oriechiette? Farfalle is nice, too. Don’t skip the anchovies. No one will know they are there. Don’t skimp on the garlic or red pepper flakes, either. I remove the garlic cloves because Someone doesn’t need to know there is a lot of garlic. This pasta should wake your mouth up. I added asparagus because I’ll use any excuse once they show up in spring, but par-cooked broccoli works, as do frozen peas or even the Romano beans in the freezer from last summer’s garden.
8 ounces orecchiette
1/3 cup olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chickpeas (if canned, drain and rinse)
1 pound asparagus, in 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano plus extra for sprinkling
Set a large, deep pot of water on the stove, add a ridiculous amount of salt (a small handful), and set the flame to high. When the water is briskly boiling, add the orecchiette and cook until al dente (check package directions for the time.) Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and hold aside.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the anchovies and use a wooden spoon to break them up until the oil is swimming in anchovies. Add the garlic cloves and cook until the oil is bubbling and the cloves are beginning to get slightly toasty brown. Add the tomato paste, a large pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir everything together and continue to cook and warm the sauce. It should smell divine in about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves.
Add the chickpeas and asparagus, stir to coat, then add in the reserved pasta water a little at a time, stirring until saucy. Add the pasta and cook and stir until piping hot and sauced, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the pepper flakes over the pasta and stir again. Add more water if needed but the pasta should be cloaked in sauce, not swimming. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Toss with the parsley and grated cheese and serve piping hot.