Recipe: Rigatoni Pugliese

Rigatoni Pugliese
Serves 4 to 6
Timing: About 30 minutes

By Andrew Carmellini
Like all Italians -- pretty much like all humans -- I love the mouth-feel of rich pasta. But I don't like the old-fashioned heaviness of food cooked with a lot of cream and butter. The chickpea purée in this pasta dish creates a smooth, rich texture and a full-bodied, earthy flavor without a lot of fat. The combination of legumes and pasta may seem unusual, but in Puglia, in heel of Italy's boot, you find pasta with ceci (garbanzo beans, or chickpeas) everywhere.

I've included directions for cooking dried chickpeas, but you can always use the canned variety—no one but the pickiest Pugliese grandmother will be able to tell. If you're really rushed, you can even substitute prepared hummus for the blended chickpea mixture, though the result will not be quite as balanced and delicious.

Ingredients For the sauce:
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed

For the broccoli rabe and rigatoni:
1 bunch broccoli rabe, cleaned of outer leaves and bottom stems trimmed
1 pound rigatoni
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

To finish the dish:
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup grated pecorino cheese

To prepare the sauce:

  1. Drain the chickpeas well, reserving the liquid. Blend half the chickpeas (about 1 cup) and all their liquid on high until the mixture forms a smooth paste, about 1 minute.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Squeeze the sausage out of the casing and add the meat to the pan. Brown it, stirring regularly and breaking the meat up into small pieces with a spoon or potato masher.
  3. Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
  4. Add the chickpea purée and the fennel seed and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the mixture forms a loose sauce and the flavors are combined, about 15 minutes.
To prepare the broccoli rabe and the rigatoni:
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Blanch the broccoli rabe until the stems are just softened and the color has deepened, about 90 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider to a bowl of ice water to immediately stop the cooking process.
  3. Return the water to a boil, add the rigatoni and cook until it's al dente. Drain but do not rinse the pasta.
  4. Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium sauté pan. Add the broccoli rabe, garlic, red pepper flakes, and the remaining half of the chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the greens are well coated, about 1 minute.
To finish the dish:
  1. Return the rigatoni to the pot. Add the sauce and cook on medium-high heat, mixing well, until the pasta is well coated, about 1 minute.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, olive oil, and half the pecorino cheese.
  3. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large serving dish and pour the broccoli rabe and chickpea mixture over the top. Top with the rest of the pecorino cheese and serve immediately.
About Andrew Carmellini:
The 2004 winner of the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef: New York City award, Andrew Carmellini is a young veteran of some of the world's finest restaurant kitchens. After stints at Lespinasse and Café Boulud -- and a year living and cooking in Italy -- he opened A Voce, which has quickly become one of New York's best-loved and best-reviewed restaurants.

Gwen Hyman has written about food for Gastronomica and The Robb Report, among other publications. She has taught food writing at NYU and is now an associate professor at the Cooper Union in New York City. Her book Making a Man: Gentlemanly Appetites in the English Nineteenth-Century Novel is forthcoming from Ohio University Press.

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