Hello, Hello everyone! I am happy to announce that I am back at college for my sophomore year. After settling in yesterday, I must admit that I felt a little emptiness on the inside. I am in a brand new dorm, something both my roommate and I wanted, but everything seems so foreign and it feels as if I am starting out all over again. These feelings hit me as a bit of a surprise because I was indeed excited to return.
One of the things I miss the most when I am at school is the kitchen. This past summer, I built my life around it. I would wake up in the mornings, look up recipes, prepare wonderful meals, and then share them on this blog. It’s tough to have this whole world suddenly pulled away from you, and I am scared to return to the dinning hall because frankly, I can’t bear to eat such horrible food.
Fortunately, I have saved numerous recipes, to keep the blog alive while I am here. This first recipe happens to be for one of the last meals I prepared before I left for college. It’s a wonderful dish of rigatoni with a spinach and chickpea sauce that’s full of delightful surprises. The first of which is the inspiration. I was originally thinking of an Indian dish, chole palak, which is a mashup of chickpeas simmered in a spiced up spinach curry. Of course there aren’t any Indian spices in this dish, but I think that both versions are built around appreciating the earthy nature of the spinach along with the nutty bite of the chickpeas. The most surprising aspects of this dish probably carry over with the almonds and the mint. The combination of almonds and spinach together makes me think of Moroccan or perhaps even earlier Moorish inspirations. Almonds not only have a pleasant crunch, but they have a slight meaty character to them that would allow this dish to feature wonderfully on a Meatless Monday menu. Mint adds a sparky freshness to finish it all off. Thinking of this meal alone, floods me with happy memories, and it’s sure to do the same for you upon taking that first beautiful bite.
- 1 lb rigatoni pasta
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
- 1 14oz can of chickpeas, drained
- 1 14oz can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 lb bag frozen spinach
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped, adjust to your taste
- salt to taste
In a small saute pan over high heat, toast the slivered almonds until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat some olive oil until it’s hot. Then add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, till it has softened and beginning to brown. Make a hot spot in the pan and toast the crushed red pepper flakes for about a minute before mixing it in with the onions. Then add the garlic and stir for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook the sauce for about another 5 minutes, till it’s beginning to thicken. Add the frozen spinach and simmer it covered, till it has thawed out, about 8 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer to cook the spinach for a further 20 minutes. Season the sauce with salt to taste. Add the canned chickpeas and cook the sauce for another 10 minutes.
While the sauce is in the finishing stages, cook the rigatoni according to the package directions. Toss the pasta with the sauce so that it covers all of the noodles evenly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the slivered almonds and fresh mint. Serve warm with grated cheese for topping, if desired.