A pasta collage with spinach, chickpeas and breadcrumbs

Whether you went to preschool, ovoda or skolka, I bet you probably made some kind of artwork involving beans and bits of macaroni and a lot of glue. It’s a childhood classic! The pasta collage I present to you here is a classic too, in that I have stolen great ideas from far and wide, and put them together in this tasty assemblage.

We probably eat a variation on this every week; it’s not too involved, nutritious, and can usually be pulled together without a mad dash to the grocery store. You can sub in any kind of leafy green, use a different type of bean, add some cheese, or make mustard breadcrumbs instead of these almondy ones. It’s all good, pretty much. I know it seems like there is a lot to do here, but especially if you use canned beans and that bagged, pre-washed spinach, it comes together fast. Just give your onions enough time to get a lovely caramel color and you’ll be on your way.

Pasta with spinach, chickpeas and breadcrumbs

The one problem I have with this recipe is that it’s not quite enough for a package of pasta; if you use the whole pound of noodles they overtake the other elements and it’s not as good. I deal with this by setting aside some of the pasta for the kids’ lunches; of course you could either double the amount of the other ingredients and go hog wild, or just don’t cook the whole bag of pasta.

Ingredients

Makes about four servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 heaping tablespoons almond meal (or ¼ cup almonds, finely ground)
  • ⅓ cup breadcrumbs (I use panko but any plain crumbs will do)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 can chickpeas (about 1½ cups), drained
  • 8  ounces/225 g fresh spinach, rinsed and any tough stems removed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces/340 g pasta
  • parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

Method

  • First, make the breadcrumbs. Warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat in a small pan. Run the garlic through a press or grate it into the oil and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the almond meal and stir for another minute, breaking up any clumps. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until toasty brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Tip the crumbs into a small dish and set aside.
  • Slice the onion in half, then into thin half-moons. Warm the second tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and a rich brown color, about ten minutes.
  • At this point, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add the chickpeas to the onions and cook for another five or so minutes.
  • By now, your water should be boiling; add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
  • Add the spinach to the onion-chickpea mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and stir — you may need to add the spinach a handful at a time to wilt it down and make room.
  • When the pasta is ready, drain it, reserving some of the water. In a serving bowl, toss the pasta with the spinach mixture, adding some splashes of the pasta water to get everything to mingle nicely and get all distributed.
  • Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the breadcrumbs on top.
  • Serve with Parmesan cheese and the remaining breadcrumbs on the side, and let your diners add them to their own serving so they don’t lose their crunch.

 

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