Yotam Ottolenghi Made the Chickpea Cacio e Pepe of Our Dreams
Yotam Ottolenghi is a chef, restaurant owner and author of nine cookbooks. In his latest cookbook, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love: Recipes to Unlock the Secrets of Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer, he reinvents cacio e pepe (a traditional Italian pasta dish that translates to "cheese and pepper"). Ottolenghi recently posted a video of his version on Instagram. He uses chickpeas instead of pasta and tops the legumes with spinach and pickled chilies. The result is a creamy, dreamy, invigorating dish you'll crave all winter long.
Ottolenghi begins by soaking dried chickpeas overnight with "lots and lots of water" and a teaspoon of baking soda which he says, "helps soften them up." The next day, he drains the chickpeas and sets them aside. In a Dutch oven (Ottolenghi uses this Le Creuset Dutch oven in the color "Flame." Buy it: $370, Williams Sonoma), he adds some olive oil and quickly sautés some crushed garlic before adding his drained chickpeas to the pot.
Then he adds a few leftover Parmesan rinds to the pot which he says, "have a lot of flavor and give that background Parmesan note." He adds a bit more baking soda, skims the surface for any unwanted "scum," as he calls it, and places the lid on the Dutch oven before putting it in the oven for 75 minutes. When that time is up, he adds a bit of salt to the pot and sticks it back in the oven to finish cooking.
Then, he gets to work on his spinach by sautéing spinach and freshly chopped parsley. He says, "Spinach just refreshes, adds vegetables and looks nice and green on top." Then, he sets that aside and begins pickling his chopped red chilies in a small bowl with a little apple cider vinegar.
To finish the dish, he removes the Parmesan rinds from the Dutch oven, adds "lots of black pepper," and alternates knobs of butter and shredded Parmesan until the mixture is silky smooth. Then he tops the creamy chickpea mixture with his sautéed spinach and herbs, pickled red chiles and leftover shredded Parmesan.
Ottolenghi says though this dish is "not authentic, by any means, [it's] delicious and comforting all the same," and we couldn't agree more. We love this recipe because it uses dried chickpeas, which are inexpensive, a great source of protein and provide plenty other healthful benefits. This dish is also endlessly customizable—throw in leftover roasted veggies, your favorite protein or whatever hard, aged cheese you have on hand.