Smoky Pepper and Chickpea Pasta Salad

SERVES: 4 to 6

You’ll notice I’ve only called for half a pound of pasta for this pasta salad, and I’ll tell you why: the thing that differentiates a great pasta salad from a great hot pasta dish, is the ratio of ingredients. It’s all in the name. This is a salad which means the veg and herbs and other non starchy ingredients should be the focal point of the dish. The pasta is merely a vessel through which to inhale it all.

Active Time: 35 Mins

Total Time: 35 mins

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Produce

  • 2 lbs sweet baby bell peppers
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch parsley

Pantry

  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup capers in brine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ cup sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas
  • ½ lb fusilli or or radiatore
  • Vinegar based hot sauce, to taste
  • ½ cup roasted almonds or hazelnuts

1. Cook the pepps:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Trim the stems of 2 pounds of baby bell peppers, cut them in half and remove their seeds.
  • Firmly smash and peel 6 garlic cloves.
  • Drain and rinse 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas
  • Heat ½ cup olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the peppers, a few big pinches of salt and cook, tossing and stirring occasionally until they begin to char and blister in some spots, and have collapsed in volume, 10-12 minutes.
  • Add ¼ cup drained capers, and the smashed garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant–don’t brown the garlic, 1 minute longer.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low, stir in 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika and cook until the tomato paste begins to stick to bottom of the pot, 2 minutes longer.
  • Add ½ cup sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, the chickpeas and a big splash of water. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to very low and cook/stew, adding a splash of water only if the pot gets dry, until the peppers are very soft, tender and jammy, 12-14 minutes longer.

2. Cook the pasta and combine:

  • Meanwhile, drop 8 ounces of fusilli in the salted pasta water. Cook until al dente.
  • Drain, and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta down. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, tossing to coat so the noodles don’t stick together.
  • Once the peppers are jammy, transfer them along with all of their juice to the bowl of pasta and stir well to combine.
  • Coarsely chop 1 bunch of parsley, leaving a handful of whole leaves for garnish, stir in the parsley, another tablespoon of sherry vinegar, and hot sauce to tastes (if you want it spicy). Taste and add more salt, hot sauce or vinegar to taste. It should be super bright, and salty and delish. Dont’ stop till you get there.
  • Just before serving, stir in ½ cup roasted salted almonds.

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