We did a very smart thing this weekend: we invited friends over for dinner on Sunday night which forced us to finish unpacking and get our new place in order. Worked like a charm. By early Sunday evening, all of our boxes were unpacked, our furniture was properly placed and all of the lights were plugged in. We have our master list of things to get (extra towel hook for the bathroom, drain stopper for the sink) but all in all, we’re pretty remarkably set up for having only moved in a week ago. Only one question remained: what to make for dinner?
Cue Lidia Bastianich. I’ve been making my way through Season 2 of Lidia’s Italy on Hulu.com and I really think it’s one of the best cooking shows you can watch. Lidia’s a remarkable teacher and her recipes are killer (not in the Paula Deen sense). Her Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes is one of our favorite things to eat in life; it was my love for that dish which led me to try this other novel combination for the seven people I had coming over.
First, check out how pretty our dining room table looked with the light coming through the windows and flowers and all that jazz.
We get great light.
Now on to the dinner. There’s no actual recipe online, so I had to watch the episode over again to take notes. Here’s what you need: bacon, garlic, chickpeas, spinach and Pecorino cheese.
It works like this. Slice up a bunch of bacon and put it in a large pan. Add a splash of olive oil and turn up the heat:
Allow the bacon to render a bit, though you don’t want it crunchy. Then add a lot of garlic and some red pepper flakes.
The smell at this point is pretty tremendous. Then you add chickpeas (this makes the dinner more substantial):
Stir those all around with a pinch of salt and then add the healthy element: spinach.
At this point you’ve already added your pasta to the rapidly boiling salted water so you can lift up a ladleful of that pasta cooking water and add it to the pan with the spinach; that’ll help it wilt. (Covering the pan also helps.)
At the end, you lift your pasta (which should be just al dente) into the pan with the chickpeas, bacon, and spinach and cook on high heat until everything comes together. If the pan’s very dry, add more pasta cooking water.
I was cooking for 7, so I had 2 pounds of pasta which meant it was hard to stir around my large skillet. So I poured out the remaining pasta water from my Dutch oven and added the whole mixture to that because it would be easier to stir around. It was. (See lead pic.)
At this point, add a big sprinkling of red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, and handfuls of freshly grated Pecorino cheese.
That really marries all of the ingredients together.
I realize at this point that I never told you what kind of pasta I used. Lidia uses gemelli pasta which looks like two intertwined noodles. I couldn’t find gemelli, but I found a pasta that was somewhat similar. I forget the name and threw out the box. James Beard committee, please ignore this paragraph.
But look at the happy first dinner guests at our new place:
Thanks to Lidia and her dreamy pasta recipes, we’re off to a great start.
Recipe: Pasta with Chickpeas, Bacon and Spinach
Summary: Based on a recipe by Lidia Bastianich.
- 4 strips smoky bacon (I like Nueske’s), cut into lardons
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- A sprinkling of red chile flakes (peperoncino)
- 1 pound gemelli pasta (or something with a similar shape)
- 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 bag baby spinach, washed (no need to dry it)
- 1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well (you should be able to taste the salt).
- In a large, wide skillet, add the bacon and a splash of the olive oil and turn up the heat to medium/high. Allow the bacon to start to render and when it gives up most of its fat and starts to color a little, add the garlic and the red chile flakes. Stir and cook for a minute, allowing the garlic and the chile flakes to toast. Meanwhile, drop your pasta into the water and stir around.
- Add the chickpeas to the bacon/garlic mixture, add a pinch of salt and stir and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Then add the spinach (don’t worry, it’ll cook down) and a ladleful of the pasta cooking water. Cover for 15 seconds or so until the spinach wilts.
- Taste a chickpea and adjust the pan for salt. Then, when the pasta is just al dente and not fully done, lift it into the pan with the bacon and chickpeas. If the pan’s dry, add some more pasta cooking water and turn up the heat. Stir and cook until the pasta is totally coated and the liquid in the pan evaporates. Take off the heat and add another drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of red chile flakes and all of that cheese. Stir it through and taste. Good, right? Serve at the table with more cheese on the side.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4