Pasta with fresh sage, rocket and feta cheese

Pasta with fresh sage, rocket and feta cheese


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About this recipe: This quick main dish can be served hot or cool. The pasta is topped with feta cheese, which has a fresh, salty flavour that goes well with pancetta, the Italian bacon, chickpeas and tomato in the sauce. For best results, use a tubular or thick pasta shape that will complement the chunky sauce.

Norma MacMillan

Serves: 4 

  • 400 g (14 oz) tubular pasta shapes, such as casarecce (slim rolls), penne or macaroni
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, shredded
  • 1 can chickpeas, about 400 g, drained
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, about 400 g
  • pinch of sugar
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) rocket, stalks removed if preferred
  • 100 g (3½ oz) feta cheese, crumbled
  • pepper

Prep:10min  ›  Cook:20min  ›  Ready in:30min 

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 10–12 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain well.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large frying pan over a moderately high heat. Add the pancetta, garlic, if using, shallots and sage, and cook, stirring frequently, for 6–8 minutes or until the pancetta is golden brown and the shallots are soft.
  3. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes with their juice and the sugar, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season with pepper (there is no need for salt as feta cheese is quite salty).
  4. Stir in the pasta until it is well coated with the sauce ingredients. Add the rocket and stir in lightly, then sprinkle with the feta cheese and serve.

Some more ideas

Use finely shredded radicchio or baby spinach instead of rocket. Adding the greens at the last minute preserves both their texture and vitamin content. * To increase the fibre content, use wholemeal shapes or noodles. Wholemeal pasta will taste good with the rich sauce and sharp cheese. * For a vegetarian dish, omit the pancetta and use 2 cans of chickpeas. * Fresh sage has a natural affinity with beans, so try cannellini, flageolet, borlotti or butter beans instead of the chickpeas. Canned beans are quick and convenient, but dried beans, soaked and cooked, will have a better texture.

Plus points

Feta cheese is high in fat and salt, but because it has such a strong flavour, a little goes a long way. Like all cheese it is a good source of protein, calcium and phosphorus, and it provides useful amounts of B vitamins and vitamin E.

Each serving provides

C, E, niacin, calcium, iron, copper, selenium * B1, folate, potassium

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