Yotam Ottolenghi’s Chickpeas Cacio e Pepe

All the buttery, cheesy, peppery goodness of cacio e pepe pasta -- but with chickpeas instead.
All the buttery, cheesy, peppery goodness of cacio e pepe pasta — but with chickpeas instead.

All it takes is copious amounts of butter, freshly ground black pepper, and grated Parmesan to create a dreamy-creamy mouthful.

You know it best as cacio e pepe, that Italian classic dish of spaghetti whose strands get coated lavishly with that velvety amalgamation.

But for those eschewing gluten or grains these days, you’ll be glad to know you can get that same beloved taste in “Chickpeas Cacio e Pepe.”

This clever recipe is from the cookbook, “Ottolenghi Test Kitchen” (Clarkson Potter, 2021) by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi. The latter, of course, is the acclaimed London restaurateur and best-selling cookbook author; and the former is the head of his Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

Yes, garbanzos stand in for the noodles. And the bean cooking liquid for the starchy pasta water that usually acts as the glue to emulsify everything.

Soak the dried beans overnight with a little baking soda to soften. The next day, add the drained beans to a Dutch oven, along with sauteed garlic, Parmesan rinds, loads of black pepper, and water, before sliding it into the oven to cook.

When done, cold pieces of butter and grated Parmesan get slowly stirred into the pot of beans, thickening the cooking liquid and turning it lush tasting.

Not your ordinary pot of beans.
Not your ordinary pot of beans.

The chickpeas get garnished with sauteed spinach, and pickled chiles. The recipe calls for Fresno chiles. I used slightly milder California chiles.

Both garnishes add another dimension to the buttery, rich tasting beans: The spinach adds deep minerality, while the chiles add a grassy brightness along with lively crunchiness.

The beans make for a satisfying main course with a green salad or grilled bread, or as a delicious side to most any roasted or grilled meat or seafood.

Even if you can’t eat pasta these days, these beans make for the next best thing.

Soulfully satisfying.
Soulfully satisfying.

Chickpeas Cacio e Pepe

(Serves 4)

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in plenty of water and 1 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 garlic cloves minced

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 1 to 2 optional Parmesan rinds

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 small Fresno chiles, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds and all

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

9 ounces baby spinach

3/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, fridge cold and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the chickpeas well and set them aside. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large Dutch oven and place on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook for 90 seconds, until starting to color. Add the Parmesan rinds, if using, the drained chickpeas, baking soda, 5 cups of water, and a very generous amount of coarsely cracked black pepper (give it about 40 grinds). Bring to a boil, skimming the scum from the surface as needed, then cover with the lid and bake in the oven for 75 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt and continue cooking, covered, for another 30 minutes, or until the chickpeas are very soft and the liquid has reduced by about half.

Meanwhile, mix together the chiles, vinegar, and a small pinch of salt in a small bowl. Set aside to pickle.

Toward the last 10 minutes of cooking the chickpeas, put the last 1 tablespoon of oil into a large frying pan on medium-high heat, and once hot, cook the spinach, add it to the pan in batches with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until just wilted, about 4 minutes. Add the parsley and remove from the heat.

When the chickpeas are ready, remove the lid and, while still hot from the oven but off the heat, add a quarter of the butter cubes and about 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan, mixing until the butter has melted into the sauce. Continue in this way, adding a quarter more of the butter and 2 tablespoons more of Parmesan until you’ve used up all 7 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup of cheese. Finally, add another very generous grind of coarsely ground black pepper. The sauce will have thickened significantly, coating the chickpeas nicely. Add a splash more water if you like it looser. Remove the Parmesan rinds, if using.

Top with the spinach mixture, the pickled chiles and their liquid, and a final sprinkling of Parmesn, serving any extra grated Parmesan alongside.

From “Ottolenghi Test Kitchen” by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi

More Yotam Ottolenghi Recipes to Enjoy: Butternut Squash with Orange Oil and Caramelized Honey

And: Miso Butter Onions

And: Roasted Eggplant with Anchovies and Oregano

And: Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce

And: Vineyard Cake

And: Lamb Meatballs with Warm Yogurt and Swiss Chard

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  • What a terrific dish! I’m not about to give up the pasta version of Cacio e Pepe, but this will make a nice addition to my repertoire — it’s actually a rather different dish, and a good one. Neat recipe — thanks.

  • Hi John: So true! It would take a lot for me to give up pasta. But this is a nice change of pace, and a fun way to eat chickpeas. 😉

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