Chickpea Pasta Casserole...Soup

Today hovered in the 80s, warm enough for me to break out a pair of summery bermuda shorts, a tank top and flip flops and not spend the day shivering (as someone as stubborn as I am is apt to do). The sun was out, my windows were down as I drove home from class, and in my head I was pondering my plan of action in tackling a nice, light vegetarian dish consisting of chickpeas and pasta. I had been craving a little vacation from meat, my mom was having a rough and busy day, and there was this wonderful can of chickpeas hiding in our pantry, hoping someone would notice it. I certainly did.

When I got home, I started preparing immediately, thinking that I could prep everything early, spend some time doing work, and then pop the casserole in the oven to heat through. Then, of course, it took me 20 minutes to chop an onion (I am desperate for help in this area), and I grossly underestimated the time it would take to caramelize said onion. So, minor setbacks. I managed to pull it all together and things were going smoothly, until I went to add the liquid to the sauteeing chickpeas, garlic, and onions. And what was meant to be a paste reminiscent of hummus turned into a sea of broth. I doctored the recipe in a last ditch attempt to thicken it, but then, my shortage of pasta (a gross misinterpretation of the ingredient list, I fear) did not help.

To make a long story, well, slightly less long, we had a thick, creamy, pureed-chickpea soup with the occasional bowtie pasta showing up on our spoons, on a warm but thankfully not swelteringly hot day. It was not ideal, and I have much hesitation in sharing this recipe with you in its current state, but I will. Because I'm impatient, and maybe you are, too.

Chickpea Pasta Casserole, courtesy of Gourmet Fury
Yield: 8 side dish portions or, as I chose to do, roughly 4-5 main dish servings depending upon your guests' appetites
The Ingredients
1/2 lb. dry pasta*
1 large can chickpeas, drained and rinsed**
1 head roasted garlic (see instructions below)
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 C chicken stock (I used 3 packs of no-sodium bouillon)
1/2 C sour cream (I used light)
3 C grated parmesan (I ran out after 1 1/2 C...)
1/2 C fresh Italian parsley, chopped (I used 2 Tbsp. dried)
Salt and Pepper (omitted)
Good olive oil

The Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

2. Cook the pasta until almost a dente in a large pot of heavily salted water (or, you know, if you're a salt nazi like I am, just cook it in normal water). Drain and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, sweat the onions in some olive oil until caramelized. Season with salt (optional, if you ask me). Add the chickpeas and garlic and cook over medium heat until the chickpeas are warmed through. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

3. Blend the mixture until smooth while drizzling in 1/3 cup of olive oil. Note: I did not add the olive oil, as I previously mentioned that I was having consistency issues. It was 100% liquidy and not at all like the pictures from the original recipe, which I encourage you to check out. Here, I also added 2 Tbsp. corn starch to thicken it. Stir in the sour cream. Add the pasta, half of the cheese, and the parsley.

4. Transfer to an oven-safe dish (I used a 9x13) and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

5. Bake in the oven until bubbly and the cheese is lightly golden, approx 10 minutes. Serve hot, drizzled with more olive oil.

*Note: Here is where I suspect I first went wrong. When I saw 1/2 lb. I said to myself, "Alright, Jess. There are 16oz. in a pound, so there are 8oz. in half. Now, although ounces are weights and cups are volume, a general rule of thumb is that 1 cup is 8oz. So, I'll cook 8oz of pasta, which works out to be roughly 1/4 C per person - a fairly typical serving size for rice, so that should be good, right?" It was nothing. So, I don't know where I went wrong, but you can bet that next time I'll be pulling out my scale to be sure.

**Note: I don't really know what a large can means. I used the typical 15.5 or 16oz. or whatever odd unit they come in, the cans. Maybe that was wrong, too, and had I used a larger size my soup would've been more of the paste that it was meant to be.

The verdict? Delicious! Although the sour cream certainly didn't make this completely saintly, this recipe managed to produce a thick, creamy "soup" (even if it wasn't supposed to) without the heavy cream or butter. Without olive oil. Think cream of potato soup, without the heaviness (and, you know, the potatoes). Think hummus in soup form. Without the olive oil. I cannot vouch for the recipe as it was supposed to turn out, but this in soup form was pretty darn excellent. If you have the same problem that I did, or if you would like a stick-to-your-ribs, protein-packed soup without the heavy cream or pounds and pounds of cheese (my dad thinks the dish could've used more salt and more cheese, but I'm way too stubborn to listen to such attempts at making my meals less healthy), just follow what I did and serve it up with a nice loaf of (homemade!) bread. It might not be a seasonal favorite right now, but come fall and winter, this would be really excellent. Or, feel free to correct my errors and make it the way it was meant to be, which I am very eager to try to accomplish again.

I'm sorry that there are no pictures. I spent the whole time fretting over the dish's consistency that it wasn't until the meal was done and I was staring at the few remnants of the dish on the table that I realized I hadn't taken any (not that it was all that becoming, anyway). So, if you're curious, please look at the original post because the photos there are enough to make you hop out of your seat right now to try this dish. Yes, even if you're reading it as late as I'm writing this post.

I have so many recipes in store for you. I don't know that I'll be cooking again for another week, although the piles of bananas in my freezer are begging to become a banana bread Father's Day treat, but I have plenty of recipes in a back log to tide us all over until then.

How to Roast a Head of Garlic
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Peel the outer layer of the garlic, leaving the cloves all stuck together and intact.
3. Slice 1/4-1/2" from one end of the head to expose the cloves.
4. Place on a baking sheet (I learned that muffin tins work swimmingly for this, but since I was only roasting one head and muffin tins are a pain to clean, I went with a regular baking sheet), and drizzle with olive oil.
5. Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves are soft.
6. Allow to cool, and when you can manipulate it with your hands, pluck out the cloves and do with them as you please. For this recipe, I mashed them up.

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