Last Sunday, before I went for my first run in months, I pulled a few cookbooks off of my shelves, determined to finally make good on those damn New Year’s resolutions.
Though I’d acquired Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian during my last visit to Portland two years ago (!), I’d barely glanced at it since that first desultory perusal. That day, though, as I flipped through the pages, this rigatoni Pugliese practically demanded to be realized, and from that point on, it was game over.
My run, shamefully short as it was, conveniently ended at the neighborhood grocery store, where I managed to acquire the necessary ingredients for less than $20. There was no pecorino cheese or broccoli rabe to be found; I made do with parmesan and spinach, but the dish didn’t suffer in the slightest. This wasn’t your typical Sunday supper—though thoroughly hearty and surprisingly copious (maaaybe not the healthiest post-workout choice), it took less than an hour to come together.
This was just the sort of gem I hoped to find when conceiving this cookbook-chronicle project: cheap, easy, and oh-so-delicious. The bar has officially been raised.
By Andrew Carmellini, from Urban Italian
For the sauce:
1 15-ounce can chickpeas [I used fresh-cooked, about 2 cups]
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce [I used leftovers from this recipe]
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
For the broccoli rabe and rigatoni:
1 bunch broccoli rabe, cleaned of outer leaves and bottom stems trimmed [I used two bunches of spinach]
1 pound rigatoni
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
To finish the dish:
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup grated pecorino cheese
To prepare the sauce:
1. Drain the chickpeas well, reserving the liquid. Blend half the chickpeas (about 1 cup) and all their liquid [if using fresh-made chickpeas, add about 1/2 cup liquid] on high until the mixture forms a smooth paste, about 1 minute.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Squeeze the sausage out of the casing and add the meat to the pan. Brown it, stirring regularly and breaking the meat up into small pieces with a spoon or potato masher.
3. Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
4. Add the chickpea purée and the fennel seed and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the mixture forms a loose sauce and the flavors are combined, about 15 minutes.
To prepare the broccoli rabe and the rigatoni:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Blanch the broccoli rabe until the stems are just softened and the color has deepened, about 90 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider to a bowl of ice water to immediately stop the cooking process. [If using spinach, skip this step.]
3. Return the water to a boil, add the rigatoni, and cook until it’s al dente. Drain but do not rinse the pasta.
4. Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium sauté pan. Add the broccoli rabe, garlic, red pepper flakes, and the remaining half of the chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the greens are well coated, about 1 minute.
To finish the dish:
1. Return the rigatoni to the pot. Add the sauce and cook on medium-high heat, mixing well, until the pasta is well coated, about 1 minute.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, olive oil, and half the pecorino cheese.
3. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large serving dish and pour the broccoli rabe and chickpea mixture over the top. Top with the rest of the pecorino cheese and serve immediately.