Spaghetti with chickpeas, spinach and spicy tomato sauce

    50 min

    Here's a colourful and easy vegetarian dish that makes a satisfying main course all on its own. It's a delicious way to mix pasta and beans, in this case chickpeas, for a good balance of protein and starchy carbohydrate.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
    • 1 can chopped tomatoes, about 400 g
    • 340 g (12 oz) spaghetti
    • 2 cans chickpeas, about 410 g each, drained and rinsed
    • ½ tsp Tabasco sauce, or to taste
    • 170 g (6 oz) baby spinach leaves
    • salt and pepper
    • 55 g (2 oz) pecorino cheese, freshly grated
    • fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves to garnish

    Prep:20min  ›  Cook:30min  ›  Ready in:50min 

    1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and cook over a moderate heat for 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
    2. Add the celery and fry, stirring, for 1–2 minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes with their juice and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until thick.
    3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling water for 10–12 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
    4. When the sauce is cooked, stir in the chickpeas and Tabasco sauce. Add the spinach leaves and simmer for 1–2 minutes, stirring, until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Drain the spaghetti and toss with the chickpeas and tomato sauce. Scatter over the parsley leaves, and serve immediately, sprinkled with the pecorino cheese.

    Some more ideas

    For tagliatelle with cannellini beans, use tagliatelle or fettuccine instead of spaghetti, and replace the chickpeas with canned cannellini or haricot beans. Instead of spinach, add 200 g (7 oz) cooked asparagus spears, cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) lengths, to the sauce. Just before serving, stir in 85 g (3 oz) thin strips of trimmed Parma ham; omit the pecorino cheese. * Grill 4 lean rashers of back bacon until crisp and golden, then drain well and chop roughly. Stir into the tomato sauce with the chickpeas. Reduce the pecorino cheese to 30 g (1 oz).

    Plus points

    Despite its name, the chickpea is not really a pea but a seed. Chickpeas contain good amounts of iron, manganese and folate, and are richer in vitamin E than most other pulses. * Pasta, like bread and potatoes, has a reputation for being fattening, but in fact it is healthily low in fat – it's butter, cheese and rich sauces that pile on the calories and fat. * By cooking the spinach leaves in the sauce very briefly, just to wilt them, all their juices and the maximum nutrients are retained.

    Each serving provides

    A * C, E, folate, niacin, calcium, copper, iron, potassium, zinc * B1, B6

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