Orecchiette with Chickpeas, Turmeric, and Greens

Orecchiette with chickpeas, turmeric, and greens is a riff on the classic pasta e ceci dish that adds dandelion greens, Calabrian chiles, turmeric, and a squeeze of lemon. Think of it as your new favorite vegetarian dinner.

Orecchiette with chickpeas, turmeric, and greens in a large pot with a wooden spoon, on a countertop.

Adapted from Angie Rito & Scott Tacinelli | Italian American | Clarkson Potter, 2021

This is a hearty, vegetable-based pasta dish in the spirit of pasta e ceci, a Roman stew of pasta and chickpeas with a million different variations (some are soupier, some have tomatoes, some involve bitter greens, etc.) No matter who’s making it, though, the two staple ingredients remain the same. Chickpeas show up often in Italian cuisine, all across the country, where they’re combined with pasta or made into regional specialties that range from porridge to fritters to focaccia.—Angie Rito & Scott Tacinelli

What is LC Hump Day Pasta?

We’re glad you asked. LC Hump Day Pasta (#LCHumpDayPasta) is a little something we cooked up to help you on the night of the week that you feel least like cooking. Wednesday was traditionally Prince Spaghetti Day (for those of you old enough to remember). We’ve revamped and updated that to Hump Day and included every type of pasta there is.

Orecchiette with Chickpeas, Turmeric, and Greens FAQs

What can I substitute for dandelion greens in this pasta?

Depending on where you are, dandelion greens might not be available when you want to make this pasta. In that case, lacinato kale, mature spinach, rapini, or Swiss chard will all make dandy replacements.

What if I want to add sausage to my orecchiette pasta dish?

The authors recommend a little bit of sausage for the meat-eaters out there. Either sweet or hot Italian sausage would be the best here. You can buy sausage, open the links and cook the crumbled meat if you can’t find raw, uncased sausage meat at the grocery store.

Orecchiette with Chickpeas, Turmeric, and Greens

Orecchiette with chickpeas, turmeric, and greens in a large pot with a wooden spoon, on a countertop.
Chickpeas provide textural contrast and a nutty flavor, while dandelion greens add depth, and the turmeric supplies a pleasantly bitter earthy note to complement the greens. A splash of heavy cream rounds out the flavors, while lemon juice brightens up everything; you can also add a cup or so of crumbled Italian sausage to make a non-vegetarian version.

Prep 40 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 1 hr
Mains
Italian
4 to 6 servings
948 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves grated
  • 4 cups (1 lb) diced yellow onions (about 2 medium onions)
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for the pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed Calabrian chiles in oil or red pepper flakes or more if desired
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1/2 pound dandelion greens stemmed and cut into 1-inch (25-mm) pieces
  • One 15.5 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound store-bought fresh or dried orecchiette
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions
 

  • In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until soft and aromatic, 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Stir in the onions, salt, black pepper, Calabrian chiles, and sugar, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the onions are soft but haven’t taken on any color, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the turmeric and tomato paste and cook until the onions are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes more. If anything sticks on the bottom of the pot, add a tablespoon of water and scrape it off with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
  • Add the greens and cook until very soft and tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and heavy cream and cook for 1 minute more, then remove from the heat.
  • In another large pot, bring 4 quarts of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orecchiette and cook until just cooked through and slightly chewy, 45 to 60 seconds for fresh or according to the package directions for dried.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander then return it to the cooking pot. Add the sauce and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
  • Serve immediately. Leftovers keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 948kcal (47%)Carbohydrates: 117g (39%)Protein: 25g (50%)Fat: 44g (68%)Saturated Fat: 13g (81%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 49mg (16%)Sodium: 401mg (17%)Potassium: 941mg (27%)Fiber: 10g (42%)Sugar: 15g (17%)Vitamin A: 6496IU (130%)Vitamin C: 41mg (50%)Calcium: 363mg (36%)Iron: 5mg (28%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I enthusiastically encourage you to make this orecchiette with chickpeas, turmeric, and greens! It sounded promising but tastes even better. It really had a rounded sophisticated flavor from the combination of the tomato paste, Calabrian chiles, turmeric, cream, and lemon juice.

I used only 2 tablespoons of kosher salt in my pasta water, and 1 teaspoon of salt in the sauce, and I thought this amount was perfect. For my greens, I used spinach. I’d probably up the amount of Calabrian chile because I do like spicy but this is a minor complaint. This is the kind of dinner that I looked forward to having leftovers the next day!

This orecchiette with chickpeas, turmeric, and greens is an outstanding pasta dish that just happens to be vegetarian, simple enough for a weeknight meal, and delicious enough to serve to guests. 

I loved the buttery, earthy feel of the chickpeas and turmeric, coupled with the pleasing bitterness of the dandelion greens. Add some heat from the Calabrian chiles for depth and you have beautifully balanced bites over and over again. I lamented at the site of the bottom of my empty bowl. Sometimes I wish eating would last forever! This dish is perfect for tweaking and riffing. 

Next time I’d amp up the chiles and skip the sugar. I was happy with the “no meat” status but like the headnote suggests, adding ground hot or sweet sausage would be an amazing addition, one that my family would have happily consumed. Adding a bit of lemon juice right before plating brightened everything up. Personally, I loved adding plenty of freshly ground black pepper to my own serving.

Trying to incorporate a vegetarian supper once or twice a week? Add this recipe to your recipe rotation! It offers an easy pasta dinner for a crowd, but this is not just another pot of creamy carbs. Not only is it satisfying, but it is also nourishing with healthful ingredients. Chickpeas make it hearty, and garlic, turmeric, and spicy Calabrian chiles give it a robust personality. I love the bitter dandelion greens—they balance nicely with the sweetness of the onion.

Originally published December 15, 2021

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was excellent and so easy! I made a couple small changes – omitted the chickpeas (didn’t have any, but plan to try next time) and sugar, added ground lamb, subbed the greens for kale – but otherwise kept the sauce as is. Don’t forget the lemon juice – it really does tie everything together. Great hearty dish on a cold day!

    1. Wonderful, Emily. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and to let us know what worked for you.

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