During lent last year I would make creamy tomato sauce by adding plain Coffeemate or soy creamer to the pasta sauce. It actually tasted pretty good and would temporarily make you forget that what you really craved was a nice heap of grated parm. During my recipe searching this year I found an interesting pasta dish in the February 2011 issue of Bon Appetit – Pasta with Chickpeas and Charred Tomatoes. Since the beginning of lent about two weeks ago our chickpea intake has increased dramatically, but I thought I would give this a try anyway.

As your penne is cooking, heat some cherry tomatoes in a skillet, stirring occasionally until some spots are blackened.

When you drain the pasta the recipe says to reserve some of the cooking water and whisk in equal parts plain hummus. Sounds weird (and it doesn’t look very appetizing) but  I am telling you, after you add the hummus mixture (your skillet now should have tomatoes, chickpeas, garlic, paprika and the drained pasta) the juices from the tomato mix in and you create this creamy sauce – no fake creamer with scary chemicals in it needed! Ingenious – thank you, Bon Appetit! Finish off with some kalamata olives and chopped cilantro (so the parsley won’t be totally alone when you toss it to the curb in a week or two).

The dish came together in about forty minutes. I imagined all day how great this pasta was going to look in my white Crate &  Barrel bowls. They are more shallow than my everyday set and a little more sophisticated than my giraffe print ones. I only have two of these bowls and one was in the sink, soaking in the beet soup pot from the other night. So I opened the cabinet to reach for my everyday, but hesitated. I 100% believed that this pasta was going to look, and in turn taste, better out of the white bowl. It couldn’t possibly be as good in anything else. After standing there in deep contemplation and reflection of myself as a cook, I realized I could have washed the bowl already 10 times (it wasn’t that I stood there for that long, I just don’t wash dishes very thoroughly). I pulled the bowl out of the murky pink water, gave it a quick soapy rinse and was ready to serve.

After several carefully composed forkfuls of penne-chickpea-tomato-cilantro-olive, I paused for praise from my husband. He commented on the flavor and genuinely looked pleased with his dinner. That was it. No excited bewilderment of how a vegan dish could taste like this. No discussion on how the hummus-hot-pasta-water and tomato juice combo developed a miraculous cream sauce. Men.

“You REALLY didn’t use any fake creamer?…Amazing!” I wanted to hear. “None at all! Can you believe it?” I whispered to my empty bowl. I know he enjoyed it though. And much more because of the dish it was in.  I savored every last bit of it – literally, I was sticking my fingers in the bowl and licking the leftover sauce off them.

Pasta with Chickpeas and Charred Tomatoes (4 servings)


  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup purchased plain hummus
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 12-ounce bags cherry tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Whisk hummus into liquid.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in large heavy skillet over high heat. Add cherry tomatoes; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until blackened in spots, shaking skillet occasionally, about 8 minutes. Mix in chickpeas, garlic, and smoked paprika. Crush some of tomatoes to release juices. Add pasta and enough hummus mixture to coat. Mix in olives and cilantro; season with salt and pepper.

One Comment to “Chick-a-pea”

  1. Frankly, even if you do cook for three kids, you still end up throwing lots of greenery…..usually, after using my herbs the first time, I pull them off the stems (parsley and dill mostly, not cilantro) wrap them in wax paper followed by aluminum foil and throw in the freezer — then when I need more I just chop or snip the frozen stuff directly into my pot of soup or whatever. Not sure how your mom would feel about that so don’t tell her……

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