Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Chickpea Sauce

It seems like every year I plant a little too much of something in my humble little container garden on and around my back patio. Last year (as well as the year before) it was basil. I backed off of that this year, since I also get quite a bit from the CSA and have reached the point where I can only eat so much Pesto. Instead, this year I went totally crazy for cherry tomatoes.

I planted Sungold cherry tomato plants that I bought at the Featherstone Farm open house event and also Yellow Pear tomatoes that I have had good luck with in the past. I had some idea that the Sungolds would be prolific, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the sheer numbers of little, sweet, juicy, orange beauties I’ve been harvesting.

Often, having cherry tomato plants on one’s porch means going out and picking a few to munch out of hand. Maybe you need to wipe them off a bit before popping them in your mouth, but you can savor each and every juicy jewel before you even get back into the house. Not so with my crop this year. No handfuls but bowlfuls. And more than enough for dishes like Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Olives, as well as another favorite, Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes in a Garlicky Chickpea Sauce.

The chickpea sauce for this dish is much like a thin hummus. It has a little spice, a splash of lemon juice, and lots of garlic. First the chickpeas are simmered in chicken broth with a couple cloves of crushed garlic. They’re then pureed, mixed with more sharp, raw, minced garlic and the lemon juice. Just toss that thick sauce with hot pasta and, of course, lots of cherry tomatoes. The tangy lemon juice compliments the sweet-tart cherry tomatoes, and the heat of the sauce mellows the raw garlic just enough. You still know it’s there, and you might just bite into a piece, which then dominates the flavor, but that’s what being a garlic lover is all about.

I tried using an immersion blender to puree this sauce, but I could get the chickpeas and crushed garlic smoother if I used a regular blender. The dish is so easy that the hardest thing will be cleaning the blender anyway. I pulled out the little insert in the blender lid and held a towel over the opening while blending. This helps to keep the hot blender contents from explosively steaming their way out of the blender jar as they may with a sealed lid. I think that little piece comes out of the lid just for such an occasion, but I could be completely wrong.

I love tomatoes of all kinds, so it’s been especially gratifying to grow so many of them myself, and you can’t get much more fresh than “just picked from the plant next to the patio door.” You may say my plants look like they getting a little out of hand. That may be so, but I defend my right to grow as many cherry tomatoes as I can eat. Besides, the little bunnies I recently discovered taking shelter under the over-reaching boughs of my Sungolds seemed quite happy with the situation as it stands.

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlicky Chickpea Sauce
Based on recipe in Cooking Light magazine.

You can cook the pasta while preparing the other ingredients. I prefer pasta shapes that can trap sauces and cup the cherry tomatoes for this dish.

6 ounces (uncooked weight) short-cut pasta (I used campanelle, but shells or orichette would be good, too), cooked as desired and kept hot
4 cloves garlic, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon coarse salt (kosher salt)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken broth (I use fat-free reduced sodium)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, any variety, cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Chopped fresh parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish

1. Finely mince two of the garlic cloves and set aside. Crush the remaining two garlic cloves with the flat of a knife.

2. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and sauté 30-seconds to 1 minute, or just until the garlic is beginning to soften. If it starts to brown, move on to the next step.

3. Add the salt, crushed red pepper flakes, chickpeas, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and boil gently for 15 minutes.

4. Spoon the chickpea mixture into a blender. Remove the insert in the lid. Replace the lid and cover the hole with a folded towel. Holding the lid down with the towel, blend the mixture until smooth.

5. Add the minced garlic and lemon juice to the pureed chickpea mixture. Combine the cooked, hot pasta, cherry tomatoes and chickpea sauce. Toss gently to coat. Garnish with parsley and plenty of Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 4 main dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Olives, Italian Chickpeas

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