January 22, 2011
For some reason, I always want to mis-spell orecchiette. It's either orrechiette, orecchietti, or worse - orrechiete. All wrong. This dish, however, is very, very right.
It came to me as I was pondering a use for the leftover half-pound (or so) of orecchiette left over from testing a recipe for a book review. While I was originally thinking that it would be a meatless dish, I was reminded that we had a double-smoked farmer's sausage in the freezer that needed using, so I threw that in, too. I was very happy with the combination of chickpeas and sausage and pasta all together, but you could easily make this dish vegetarian (vegan, in fact) by using veggie stock in place of the chicken stock, and simply omitting the sausage.
I wanted something non-tomatoey, and we weren't all that keen on a cream sauce that particular night, so I decided to make a bright, lemony sauce, using the tips and tricks I'd learned in tweaking the Chicken Sahara recipe. With the first few bites, we knew this one was a winner.
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 30 - 45 minutes
200 grams orecchiette
1 double-smoked farmer's sausage
2 cups canned chick peas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Zest & juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 teaspoon chicken stock/veggie broth (unheated)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups spinach, in chiffonade
Dice sausage and fry gently in a 12" skillet until lightly browned. Obviously, vegetarians can skip ahead to the next step.
Combine flour, salt & spices in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Whisk the cold stock or broth into the flour mixture, along with the lemon zest and juice and crushed garlic. Do not use heated stock/broth, or you will get lumps; room temperature or cold is best. Whisk until the mixture is smooth with flecks of garlic. Pour the sauce mixture into the skillet, and cook, stirring often over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas and continue to cook on low, covered so the liquid doesn't all evaporate. The sauce will get much yellower as it cooks, don't worry.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook orecchiette to desired doneness. Drain (or - better - remove pasta from the pot with a spider tool, and add to the sauce. Stir really well, getting the sunny yellow colour to coat the pasta. If the dish seems too thick or stiff, add a little of the pasta cooking water to thin it out (maybe a quarter of a cup). Allow everything to cook for a few minutes on very low while you slice the spinach into chiffonade. Stir spinach ribbons into the pasta, combining well, and serve immediately (with a little freshly ground black pepper, if you fancy).