Sunday, January 8, 2012

Curry-Tomato Sauce with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Chickpeas

Recipe modified by You Want Me to Cook? – August 24, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Every Day with Rachael Ray – May 2011.

It had been a while since I had made (and eaten) a vegetarian meal and I had been staring at this recipe for a long time.  I’m not sure why I was hesitant to make it.  It had many of my favorite things (curry, pasta, tomatoes) and had some healthy elements (whole wheat pasta, chickpeas, vegetarian).  Still, I never seemed to have a taste for it.  In fact, I bought all the groceries and didn’t make it for almost three weeks.

Finally, I sucked it up one night and made it.  Ringing endorsement, right?

© You Want Me to Cook?
Curry-Tomato Sauce with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Chickpeas
Sure, it looks like a pasta you’d want to eat, but it wasn’t as chunky as the one pictured with the recipe.  I also didn’t realize what a difference the parsley made in presentation… not that I wasn’t going to eat it.  Their dish looks prettier, that’s all.

© Every Day with Rachael Ray
Their sauce looks chunkier and it makes mine look dry.  That’s kind of a bummer.  On the flip-side… their chickpeas very visible and for some reason it makes it look less appealing to me.  Not that I dislike the taste of chickpeas.

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

MessEH – You’re going to have to deal with pasta and pasta water (is there ever a time I don’t spill some) and you’ve got chopping that is going to require gloves.  However, you are going to need minimal equipment, most of the cooking is done in a single pot and there really wasn’t anything to scrub.

Start-to-Finish Time: AROUND AN HOUR – About a quarter of the time went to prep work, but the good news is that about half the time is hands-off.  Still, you won’t have your meal for at least an hour.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – All the vegetables you chop will have to be finely chopped.  Also, you’ll need to protect your hands (and eyes and lips) from the heat of the peppers.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – the recipe consists of making pasta and sautéing some vegetables.  You will have to deglaze the pan, but it sounds scarier than it is.  There’s really nothing difficult about it.

OverallNOT BAD – I’ve had better vegetable sauces over pasta.  I did like the addition of the chickpeas, but there were a little too many for my taste.  We haven’t had it since and I haven’t mentioned it to my husband, but I would make it for him if he asked.  I just don’t think it had a big impression on him that he’s wanted it.

Recipe Information:
I am not a doctor or dietician.  I make my nutritional assessments with the aid of Spark Recipes.  I run the original recipe and my altered recipe through their calorie counter and then compute the differences I find.  My numbers are to be used as a guideline.  Anyone who is under dietary medical supervision should follow the advice of their medical professional if their opinion differs from mine.  PLEASE!

Servings: 4
Total Time: classified as a 30-minute Meal

If you’re counting, that comes out to a quarter pound of pasta ALONE per person.  That’s a pretty big serving of food.  Serve it with a basic salad (no heavy dressing and lots of vegetables) and a crusty roll/bread and you can stretch it to six to eight.

As for the timing, this was categorized as a 30-minute meal.  Even if you’re an expert chopper, there’s no way you’d get this done in 30 minutes.  It took me 35 minutes to sauté the vegetables and cook the sauce.

My Timing:
  • Pasta water to boil: 18 minutes
  • Prep (done while pasta water to boil): 18 minutes
  • Create Sauce: 14 minutes
  • Sauce Simmer: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
Definitely start the water for the pasta boiling before prepping the ingredients.  You want the pasta to be done ready to toss in the sauce before it goes cold.

Nutritional Information
None given

Yes, it’s the usual crap of eating in moderation without knowing if this is a healthy dish or something that you would need to eat sparingly or on special occasions.  I ran the recipe through, as written, to compute the nutritional information.  Since there were some options, I used the following ingredients:
  • Whole wheat pasta over whole grain
  • Medium white onion
  • Fresno pepper
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Pecorino-Romano Cheese
  • (minus) Parsley/Cilantro leaves
The nutritional information was as follows:
  • Calories 609.1
  • Total Fat 14.3 g
  • Saturated Fat 1.2 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 3.7 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0.5 g
  • Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  • Sodium 499.1 mg
  • Potassium 414.2 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 114.5 g
  • Dietary Fiber 18.7 g
  • Sugars 1.6 g
  • Protein 19.8 g
This dish has substantial calories, fat and sodium levels.  Also, it’s pretty high in carbohydrates for being whole wheat.  While going through the comments for the recipe, someone noted that there wasn’t a lot of protein in the dish, but chickpeas are a decent source of protein and almost 20g of it is substantial for a vegetarian dish.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe.  I used an Anaheim pepper, organic vegetable stock, and whole canned tomatoes (not san marzano).  I ran the changes through the nutritional calculator and got relatively the same numbers, but with less sodium at 437.9mg.  That is probably because of the organic broth that I used.

Also, the dish is high in the following:
  • Vitamin C – an antioxidant that is needed by the body to form collagen in bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels, and which aids in the absorption of iron.
  • Folate – helps tissues grow and cells work.
  • Thiamin (vitamin B1) – helps the body's cells convert carbohydrates into energy.  It is also essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.
Changes denoted by red text
© You Want Me to Cook?
Curry-Tomato Sauce with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Chickpeas
1 lb. whole wheat or other whole grain spaghetti
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. mild curry powder (or about 2 tsp. turmeric, 1 1/2 tsp. each ground cumin and coriander, and a scant 1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon and cardamom)
1/2 cup dry white wine, chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 can (28 to 32 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained
Grated aged goat cheese or tangy pecorino-romano cheese, for topping
Flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped, for garnish

Ingredient Notes:
Whole Wheat Spaghetti – I prefer to go with whole wheat pasta when I can find it.  Beware of multi-grain pasta.  It isn’t the same as whole grain. According to the Whole Grains Council, whole grains or foods must “contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed.”  If the grain has been processed, it still has to “deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.”  Also 100% of the original kernel must be present to qualify.  Multi-grain means that different types of grains are used, not that the entire grain must be present.

Onion – the recipe didn’t specify the type of onion, so I went with the white variety.  I selected a medium size as well.

Anaheim Pepper – the original recipe called for a Fresno pepper (pronounced like the city in California) and this is a hot pepper.  I went with an Anaheim because it was one of the only ones the grocery store had and I wasn’t sure how much heat I really wanted.  The recipe already had the kick of curry, so I didn’t want too much spice.  If you want to go hotter than an Anaheim pepper but don’t want to do a Fresno, try a jalapeno or Serrano.

Garlic – the original recipe called for chopped garlic, but I already had pre-minced on hand, so I used it to save some time.

Curry Powder – I had curry powder on hand, so I used it, but if you don’t have any, you can use the blend specified in the ingredient listing.  (If you can’t see it – 2 teaspoons turmeric, 1 1/2 teaspoons each ground cumin and coriander, and a scant 1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cardamom).

Vegetable Stock – I didn’t have any white wine on hand and I wanted to keep the dish vegetarian, so I went with the vegetable stock.  I used an organic broth which has a lower sodium level.

Tomatoes – the original recipe called for san marzano canned tomatoes.  I did a little research and according to Wikipedia it is a “variety of plum tomato” and “considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world”.  I had no idea that there are different kinds of tomatoes used in canned tomatoes and I also couldn’t find any specific san marzano.  I don’t know what I used – just that they were whole tomatoes.

Chickpeas – chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans.  If you can’t find them, check in the Mediterranean section of your supermarket.  If they aren’t there, you can use great northern beans or lima beans.  Rinse them under tepid water in a colander swishing them with your hands until they no longer feel slimy.  Not only does the bean liquid have a strong taste, it also contains a lot of sodium.

Pecorino-Romano cheese – the recipe called first for an aged goat cheese or chevre (French pronounced SHEH-vruh) which is quite expensive and not necessarily easy to find.  I went with a Pecorino-Romano which also wasn’t terribly cheap, but still more reasonable than the other.  You can also use feta in a pinch.

Parsley/Cilantro – Since this was for garnish purposes only, I didn’t see the need to buy a bunch.  I will say that the green would have made my dish more attractive.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
© You Want Me to Cook?
Curry-Tomato Sauce with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Chickpeas
Sharp knife
Microplane grater
Pasta pot/Large pot
Wooden spoon
Glass measuring cup – 1 cup minimum
Dutch oven/Large skillet
Large spoon
Potato masher

Equipment Notes:
Disposable gloves – to protect your hands from the heat in peppers.  I keep a large box of disposable ones for this purpose.  If you don’t have any, make sure you wash your hands WELL after you cut up the peppers and DO NOT touch your eyes, lips or nose (ESPECIALLY YOUR EYES).

Microplane grater – it is much easier to use a grater for grating a small amount of cheese than a large box grater.

Glass measuring cup – I find it a lot easier to dunk a glass measuring cup into the boiling water then to try to pour the pasta water into a cup.

Dutch oven – Unless you have an extra large skillet that is VERY deep, you should use a Dutch oven.  Trust me, there is a lot of food to cook in the sauce and then toss with the pasta.

Ordinarily I tell you to prep all of your ingredients first, but you want to get the pasta water boiling as soon as possible.

(1)   Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it and add the pasta. Cook to al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

(2)  Prep the ingredients.

(3)  In a Dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil (warming the pan first), a couple of turns of the pan, over medium-high heat.

(4)  Add the onion, chile pepper and garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.

(5)   Add the curry powder (or your own curry blend) and season with salt. Stir to toast the spices for a minute.

(6)  Deglaze the pan with the stock/wine.
It took about 4 minutes for the stock to release the brown bits and boil down.

(7)  Add the tomatoes and crush with a potato masher or wooden spoon.
I think I mashed the tomatoes a little too much since they weren’t chunky like the sauce photographed for the recipe.

(8)  Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced, 15 to 20 minutes.

(9)  Toss the pasta with the sauce and reserved pasta cooking water to combine.

(10)  Top with the cheese and parsley (or cilantro).

Overall, this dish was good, but I was slightly overwhelmed by the chickpeas.  It was a nice thick sauce, but wheat pasta can REALLY absorb sauce, so it ended up being slightly dry as leftovers.  Also, I wish I would have gone with a pepper that had a little more kick to it.  The curry gave it a kick, but not a lot of heat.

If I were to make any changes, I would:
  • Use wine to deglaze the pan.  I think this would really bring out the flavor of the curry even more.
  • Go with thinner pasta.  The spaghetti absorbed the sauce quickly and the pasta was slightly heavy.
  • Try a spicier pepper.  Although I’m a little scared of using a hot one, I’d throw in a jalapeno just to turn up the heat a little.
  • Look for the right tomatoes.  I did my “tomato research” after I came home and couldn’t find the right kind.  I’m intrigued by the “best sauce tomato in the world” comment.
  • Not mash the tomatoes as much.  I’d leave a little chunk to the tomato and if I needed a little more “sauce” I’d…
  • Add a little more pasta water.  Especially if I stick with the spaghetti since it is much thicker.
Happy cooking!

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