Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pasta e Ceci

Another day, and more snow in New England. Sure, this time it was only an inch or so, but after yesterday's below-zero lows, I'm not eager to go outside.

Of course, this leads to a catch-22. There isn't much food in the house, so I need to go grocery shopping. But... I can't face the outdoors without something warm and hearty in my belly. So what's a Slacker Gourmet to do? Turn to Google, pull out various cans, jars, boxes and frozen foods, and in less than 1/2 hour, sit down to a filling bowl of comfort food (with enough leftovers for the next couple of days for lunch - bonus!).

Pasta e ceci sounds chic, but it's simply a quick stew comprised of pasta and chickpeas in a tomato base. Everyone seems to have their own recipe - I favored one that I found that treated the liquid base as more of a pasta sauce than a soup. The sprinkling of cheese at the end is purely optional; the sauce is plenty thick without it.

Pasta e ceci

Pasta e CeciServes 4
Based on Pasta e Ceci (Pasta With Chickpeas)


  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 small onion, diced (I used frozen diced onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used minced garlic from a jar)
  • 1 tsp dried crushed rosemary or 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (I used dried)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes with the juice
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 pound small pasta (I used ditalini, elbow macaroni or smaller penne/rigatoni varieties would be good)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan or Romano for garnish (I used Romano)

Heat oil in a soup pot. When it shimmers, toss in onion and garlic and sauté until onion is soft. Add rosemary and stir around for another minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, red pepper flakes, and salt (I started with 1/2 tsp here), and simmer until tomatoes soften. Add 1 cup of the chickpeas, reserving the rest for later, and the cup of water, and simmer until heated through. Once the chickpeas are heated, purée the contents of the pot until smooth. Add remaining chickpeas, taste and correct seasoning (I added another sprinkle of salt and some pepper) and keep warm until pasta is cooked.

Meanwhile, boil salted water and cook pasta to al dente - it will suck up the liquid in the sauce and soften further. Drain and toss with the sauce and chickpeas. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan or Romano.

Puréeing the tomato-chickpea mixture transformed the humble ingredients into a thick, rich, creamy sauce - without any dairy whatsoever! Next time, I may add an additional can of chickpeas to the finished sauce, as I found myself wanting more of them. Also, I believe the pasta could be simmered directly in the sauce with the addition of extra water - another thing to try next time.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Personal Naan Pizzas

Who here loves pizza? *raises hand*

Making your own pizza at home can be time-consuming, especially if you make your own dough and sauce. Even if you use store-bought dough and sauce, you're still committing to making an entire pizza, which, if you're just looking for a quick lunch for yourself, is probably more effort than it's worth.

Enter the English muffin or French bread pizza. Sure, it's tasty, but more in that school-cafeteria kind of way. The crust parts don't even remotely resemble real pizza dough. So, what's the answer?


"But that's Indian, not Italian!"

True. But, recipes for homemade naan are not that far off from pizza dough recipes. It's a good thickness, good flavor, good texture and you can find ready-made naan sold frozen in Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Add tomato sauce and cheese, pop into the oven for a few minutes, and you've got yourself a wholly satisfying personal pizza with minimal effort.

Naan pizza
Personal Naan Pizza
Serves 1

  • 1-2 pieces naan (I like garlic naan, plain is good too), still frozen
  • Olive oil
  • Shredded mozzarella or Italian-blend cheese
  • Jarred or homemade pasta sauce, pizza sauce, bruschetta, etc. (I used Trader Joe's jarred bruschetta)
  • Pizza toppings (optional, I had mushrooms in the fridge so I sautéed and used them)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lay out your frozen naan, and brush top lightly with olive oil. Spread a couple spoonfuls of sauce on top, sprinkle on cheese, and add your toppings (if using). Bake on a cookie sheet or directly on a pizza stone for 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. If the crust still looks a little pale, move the pizza to under the broiler for about 30 seconds. Cut into quarters, and enjoy (but please, give the cheese a moment or two to cool down slightly - burning the roof of your mouth is not good eats)!