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Spaghetti with Chickpeas

When I’m deep in the midst of training for a race, I start seeing the food I eat in a much different light.  Will it provide me with the energy I need?  Will it help me rebuild muscle and speed recovery?  Empty calories are certainly a no-go, so I find myself trading potato chips and chocolate for bananas, blueberries and almonds.  But what about real meals?  You know I’m not the world’s best cook, so what are my options?

I asked you all for your favorite eats to fuel your running (or sport of choice), and received an e-mail from a good friend pointing me to the Spaghetti with Chickpeas [Spaghetti con Ceci] recipe over at Smitten Kitchen.  Already a big SK fan, I was intrigued by her recipe, which she half-mockingly dedicated to all those crazy runners carbo loading before the NYC Marathon last year.  So I gave it shot.

After some slight alterations to make the recipe vegetarian friendly, I was really pleased with how delicious and comforting the meal was.  In order to test this out as a potential pre-race meal, I ate it the evening before my 12-mile long run last week. During that run I felt really great and my energy levels were high; while not all of that can be attributed to the spaghetti of course (if only it was that easy!), I think I’ve found a new favorite carbo loading meal.

And of course I can’t resist sharing the goodness here with you!

Chickpea Spaghetti
Guess what I’ll be having for dinner again Saturday night?

15 ounces (425 grams) canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable stock
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch chile flakes
1 14-ounce (400 grams) can tomatoes, chopped
10 to 15 basil leaves
Salt to taste
1 pound (450 gram) spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

  • Use a blender or hand mixer to combine about 3/4 of the chickpeas (set the rest aside) with the vegetable stock until you form a paste.
  • Over medium heat add olive oil to a large pot, and cook onions, garlic and chili flakes for about 5-8 minutes.
  • Add the chickpea paste, tomatoes, and basil, and then let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • While the sauce is simmering, cook up the spaghetti until it’s al dente.  When it’s finished, drain the pasta, but save 1 cup (250 ml) of the pasta water.
  • Add the spaghetti to the chickpea sauce (here’s where that large pot comes in handy), along with the chickpeas you set aside at the beginning, and about half of the pasta water.
  • Mix together until spaghetti is completely coated and cook together for about one minute.  You can use the remaining pasta water if the consistency is too thick for you, but I found it wasn’t necessary.
  • Add salt to taste, and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.

(Meat lovers can check out the original version of the recipe here.)

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