Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pasta Skillet with Tomatoes & Beans

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – August 25, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published by myRecipes daily e-zine “Dinner Tonight”.

I’m not going to lie.  Chickpeas freak me out.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because I think of hummus, which I like, but find bland when not flavored correctly.  By the way, if you’ve never tried hummus, you’re missing something.  Pick up a small container of Sun-Dried Tomato hummus and a bag of pita chips – you won’t be sorry.  Anyway, this very simple recipe contains chickpeas and not many spices, so I was a little nervous about how well this was going to turn out.  I’ve really made an effort to try to make vegetarian dishes more often (and more than just mac ‘n’ cheese) so I decided to give it a go.

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:


I chose not to garnish with basil leaves, but my result is pretty close.  Again, my plating isn’t as pretty, and I SWEAR I’m trying to get better at that.  In this case, I shouldn’t have used a pasta bowl and found something a little more compact.  Other than that, the dishes look very similar.  One thing to note, the recipe calls for grated cheese.  They clearly used shredded, and so did I.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – Not bad in the general scheme of things.  Chopping tomato can be a little messy and you have to transfer a large amount of food from a large pan to a bowl, but overall the mess is contained to a few dishes and the prep is minimal.

Start-to-Finish Time: UNDER AN HOUR – Once the pasta is finished, you have about 10 minutes of cooking/finishing time.  Almost all of the time to prepare this recipe comes with cooking the pasta.  It is definitely a quick one to make.

Prep Work: LOSS OF FINGER POSSIBLE – I hate cutting tomatoes.  Getting rid of the seeds sucks, and if you don’t have a great knife, the task becomes even more difficult.  Then you have to deal with cutting the basil, although I will admit that it is easier than some of the other herbs.  Remember to read the ingredient comments on how to cut basil.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – Most of the recipe is easy to make – cooking pasta, sauteing vegetables and tossing a pasta mixture.  It doesn’t get a COOK IN MY SLEEP rating because of task of chopping the basil, which I only recently learned how to do.

OverallNOT BAD – It wasn’t bad, but the chickpeas, which are bland, overwhelm the dish.  If asked to make it again, I would, but with the changes I include at the end.

Recipe Information:
Time estimates are from the original publisher of the recipe, not the length of time it took me to create it.  Look for my comments below.  Nutritional Information is based on original recipe.  Any changes I make to reduce the caloric, fat, cholesterol or sodium content are not reflected in the Nutritional Information.

Prep/Total Time: not given
Servings: 4

Nutritional Information (1 serving – 1¼ cups)
  • Calories 376
  • Total Fat 8.9g (Saturated Fat 3.1g)
  • Iron 4.3mg
  • Cholesterol 15mg
  • Calcium 211mg
  • Sodium 624mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 57.8g
  • Fiber 4.9g
  • Protein 17.5g

I have to start measuring my servings that I plate, because honestly, I think it was more than 1¼ cups.  You can get four servings out of this recipe, I’m sure, but make sure you have a salad and crusty bread to serve with it.  I lowered the calorie and carbohydrate count and upped the fiber count by using wheat pasta.

Changes denoted by red text

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups chopped tomato
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces wheat angel hair pasta
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 can (15½ ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Basil sprigs (optional)

Ingredient Notes:
Olive Oil – should you use your really expensive extra-virgin olive oil or not.  Since it is not the focus of the dish and is used as a cooking medium, don’t waste your good olive oil stash.  The cheap(er) stuff works just fine.

Tomato – you get roughly 1 cup of chopped tomato for every large tomato.  You’ll need approximately 2 large tomatoes for this recipe.

Garlic – to save time, I used the pre-minced, since the garlic wasn’t the focus of the dish.

Wheat Angel Hair Pasta
  • I used wheat pasta to cut down on the carbohydrate count lowering the calories and glycemic index of the dish. 
  • Angel hair pasta is essentially very thin spaghetti.  If you can’t find angel hair pasta, you can use capellini (pronounced cah-peh-LEE-nee – slightly larger), vermicelli (pronounced ver-mih-CHELL-ee – slightly larger than capellini) or spaghetti (largest option).
  • Many an Italian has told me that wheat pasta is blasphemy.  Personally?  I can’t tell the difference.  However, the original recipe does call for traditional pasta, so feel free to use it in the event (a) you can’t find wheat or (b) you can’t bring yourself to eat the wheat.

  • Often, I will substitute dried herbs for fresh when there is a small amount.  Since this is a substantial amount, I bought fresh and didn’t have much left over.
  • I had a professional chef tell me the best way to chop basil is to pluck the leaves off the stems (they’re bitter) and place them in a pile with the largest on bottom.  Then you roll them up tightly using the largest to keep all of them together and thinly slice.  You can then chop the slices to make them as small as you want.

  • You can buy dried chickpeas, but you will have to rehydrate them prior to use.  This takes quite some time, so buy the canned for the quick option.
  • If you don’t like chickpeas or can’t find them, you can substitute great northern beans or lima beans.
Asiago Cheese – Asiago cheese (pronounced ah-zee-AH-go) is a firm cheese which sometimes you can find pre-shredded with the bagged cheese or in blocks with the specialty cheese in the deli/produce department.  If you can’t find it, you can substitute Parmesan or Romano.
Balsamic Vinegar – the balsamic vinegar is the main flavor of this dish, so if you have expensive stuff, now is the time to use it.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Large pot or Pasta pot
Wooden spoon
Box grater
Large skillet or Dutch oven
Large spoon
Large bowl

Equipment Notes:
Large skillet / Dutch oven – If you have a large skillet, make sure it is also deep.  You will be adding 3 cups of pasta and a can of chickpeas to the skillet so it needs to be deep as well as large.  If you don’t have a large and deep skillet, use your Dutch oven.

Ordinarily, I say to have all of the ingredients prepared prior to starting the recipe.  In this case, you should start the water to cook the pasta prior to prepping the ingredients.  While it is heating to boiling, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients.

(1)  Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain.

The original recipe called for cooked angel hair pasta.  I changed the ingredient list to uncooked and included this as a step. 

**Remember** - you must have the pasta cooked and drained before continuing with the recipe.

(2)  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomato and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes.

(3)  Add pasta, basil, salt, pepper, and chickpeas; cook 2 minutes.

(4)  Place mixture in a bowl; stir in cheese and vinegar, and garnish with basil, if desired.

This is a great dish for dinner or a light lunch.  I was worried about it tasting too bland, but the small amount of balsamic vinegar and asiago cheese really packed a punch.  It had a great taste, but the chickpeas completely overpowered the rest of the ingredients.  I would suggest the following to improve on the recipe:
  • Add an additional tomato
  • Add an additional clove of garlic or two
  • Use half of the 15½ ounce can of chickpeas

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