Chickpea and Spinach Orecchiette with Crispy Lemon Bread Crumbs
Serves 4 (8 cups)
Jerry Anne Di Vecchio
Layered flavors give this hearty vegan dinner depth: sweet onion, fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic, red chiles, and black olives. If you’re an omnivore, try adding a couple of minced anchovy fillets; they add savory oomph without noticeable fishiness.
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped 2 bay leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped pitted brined black olives, or 1⁄4 cup finely chopped olives plus 2 anchovy fillets
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
1 1/2 cans (20 oz. total) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. In another medium pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and bay leaves and cook until onion is softened, about 7 minutes.
Stir in olives (and anchovies, if using), garlic, and chile flakes; let sizzle 1 minute.
Boil pasta just until beginning to get tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, stir tomatoes into pot of onion and olives and let simmer 7 to 8 minutes to blend flavors.
Scoop 1 cup cooking water from pasta pot and pour into pot of sauce. Drain pasta and add to sauce, along with chickpeas and spinach. Cook until pasta is just tender, about 5 minutes. Taste and add lemon juice if you like.
Meanwhile, dry pasta pot, add 1 tbsp. oil, and heat over medium heat. Add panko and lemon zest. Toast panko, stirring, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Spoon pasta into shallow bowls and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with panko and serve extra panko on the side.