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Portabello and Chickpea Toasted Spaghetti

May 29, 2007

Portabello and Chickpea Toasted Spaghetti

I saw something in Vegetarian Times the other day that completely intrigued me: a recipe for spaghetti that involved toasting it, then cooking it in broth until the broth is absorbed, risotto-like. Clotilde, at Chocolate & Zucchini, actually shared something similar last year, and I’d experimented with it with good results. The VT recipe used a technique that differs just a little from Clotilde’s–the pasta is toasted in the oven, rather than in a skillet stovetop, and the stock is flavored with all kinds of yumminess. Of course, I changed the VT recipe up a little bit–their’s calls for spinach and tomato paste, neither of which I have.

To be honest, I feel like this lacks a little something, for which I have to blame myself, since I didn’t really follow the recipe. The chickpea to spaghetti ratio in my version was way off, which I predicted and yet did nothing to mitigate. I let myself believe that you can’t go wrong with lots of chickpeas, but in this instance, they just overpowered everything else. And I can’t really tell if the too-spiciness is due to overuse of red pepper flakes, or the fact that I substituted a bit of salsa for the tomato paste. Hm. Regardless, the method is certainly worth experimenting with, and I think a better ingredient balance would be very easy to attain.

Portabello and Chickpea Toasted Spaghetti

(adapted from Vegetarian Times; they call it Spaghetti with Spinach and Mushrooms)

  • about 1/4 lb. thin dried spaghetti, broken if half
  • 1 c. vegetable broth (I used chicken, because I needed to use it up)
  • a small pinch of red pepper flakes (or harissa)
  • an even smaller pinch of saffron threads
  • about 1 T. salsa
  • 6 oz. portabello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced thinly (I only used half, because that was all I had, and again, a whole zucchini would have created a better flavor balance)
  • 1/2 a 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I used the whole can)
  • a bit of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350F. VT’s authors recommend laying the broken spaghetti pieces on a baking sheet and spraying them with cooking spray. I do not have sprayable cooking spray in my house, so I just drizzled a little olive oil onto a baking sheet and tossed the dried spaghetti with the olive oil. I’m sure it resulted in oilier pasta than the original authors intended, but I didn’t have any real problems cooking it and it tasted great. Bake the dried spaghetti in the oven for about five minutes. My spaghetti was very thin and almost started to burn, so keep an eye on it.

Toasted spaghetti

Bring the broth and about a cup of water, the red pepper flakes, saffron, and salsa, and a little bit of salt and pepper to boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and keep it warm with a lid on it, so it doesn’t evaporate too much.

Heat a tiny bit of olive oil (maybe two teaspoons) in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the cut up mushrooms, and lay them out in an even layer on the bottom of the pot. Let them sit and cook for about four or five minutes, undisturbed. Don’t panic and think they’re burning, because they aren’t.

‘Shrooms

After about four minutes, when the sizzling noises start getting a bit louder, stir them up just a little, and let them alone again. When they start looking very dark and wet and cooked, add the garlic and cook for about another minute.

Reduce the heat a little bit, and add half of the broth mixture and the toasted pasta. Stir it together, and let it cook for about five minutes, or until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir it relatively often. It will probably seem like the liquid isn’t really being absorbed, but eventually it will be mostly gone. Then add the rest of the broth, the zucchini, and the chickpeas, and stir it all up again. Let it cook for about 10 or 11 minutes, or until the remaining liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is cooked. VT recommended only five minutes at this point, but mine definitely took 11 minutes, and I had halved their recipe, so I don’t know what they’re all on about.

You can add a little more salt and pepper at this point if you feel it, but I didn’t think it needed any. Then serve it right away. Or let it sit in the pot on an unlit burner for an hour until your poor, overworked housemate can get home and eat it. This recipe serves about three people, and I will say it again, because I can’t say it enough–stop printing recipes that serve six to eight people, oh magazine writers and publishers! Few people have more than two children anymore; the extended family is going by the wayside. No one needs to cook that much food. I loathe doing kitchen math, so please, make it all easier on us and our waistlines by telling how to cook for a normal sized family.

Rant finished.

I’ll be experimenting with this recipe in the future. I think some changes could be make that would definitely improve the flavor. Like the ones the VT people wrote, for example. I’m just never satisified following directions, am I? If anyone else tries alternate variations with better luck, please share!

Chickpeas and Mushrooms

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