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Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach, Chickpeas, and Pimentón Recipe

Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach, Chickpeas, and Pimentón Recipe

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Orecchiette with Wilted Spinach, Chickpeas, and Pimentón

Don’t you love recipes that can be thrown together in minutes, yet are healthful and over-the-top delicious?

This orecchiette easily fulfills all the above conditions. The sweet pimentón coats everything with its seductive smokiness, while the shavings of nutty manchego cheese and the drizzle of herbaceous olive oil made with the delicate Arbequina Spanish olives bestow the perfect last touch.

Hearty, smoky, and savory, this pasta dish delivers heaps of flavor and leaves you feeling utterly satisfied.


  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 1/3 cup Arbequina extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 8 large cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon pimentón dulce (Spanish smoked sweet paprika)
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Aged manchego, shaved with a vegetable peeler, to taste, for garnish


Calories Per Serving508

Folate equivalent (total)233µg58%

Espinacas con Garbanzos: Seville’s Classic Spinach and Chickpea Stew

Espinacas con garbanzos has been one of my favourite dishes ever since I first arrived in Spain. This simple but delicious stew of spinach and chickpeas is one of Seville’s most iconic dishes, served in pretty much every traditional bar across the city!

When I tried my first tapa of espinacas, I was amazed. Not just by how delicious it was (although that was a surprise, given that the two ingredients that make up the name don’t exactly scream ‘taste-bomb’), but by how unexpected the flavours were. It packed a fairly massive punch, with earthy spices, garlic, and none of the soap that everyone knows spinach tastes like but also denies for some reason. Loaded with cumin, it tasted like something that didn’t belong in an Andalucian kitchen at all. But as it turned out, these are tastes that are more Andalucian than any other!

A taste of Al-Andalus

The first spinach and chickpea dish was first brought to southern Spain by the Moors. Originally part of an empire stretching from the from the Middle East and across North Africa, the Moors took spinach (first cultivated in Persia) into their new Spanish territories in the eighth century. Chickpeas, too, are thought to have first grown in southeast Turkey, and probably came to the Iberian peninsula via the same route. The Moorish love for veggies (asparagus was said to be a luxury dish!), combined with difficulties in preserving fresh greens, inspired them to mix spinach with chickpeas and spices creating the ancestor of my beloved espinacas con garbanzos!

Stocked full of nutrients, and packed with more protein than most vegan dishes, this stew was also heavily popularised by the Spanish Catholic church as a dish to eat during lent. Today, you’ll still find that this tapa is loaded with Middle Eastern spices like cumin, giving off an incredible aroma.

The best part? Not only is it easy to find at bars in Seville, it’s also super simple to make at home! A quick and easy one-pan meal, I have my version of this classic spinach and chickpeas stew on a fairly heavy rotation for midweek meals.

Step by Step

In a medium pot, boil the pasta in water and salt for about 7-8 minutes, just until the pasta starts to get tender. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the pasta has cooked, make sure to reserve one cup of the water before draining the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high. Chop the onion and add it to the oil, cooking for about 5 minutes, until it’s softened.

Stir the olives, garlic, and red pepper flakes into the onion and let it sizzle for one minute.

Add the tomatoes into the stockpot and let it simmer for about 7-8 minutes so the flavors blend together. Stir frequently.

Carefully scoop one cup of the water from the boiling pasta and pour it into the stockpot. Then add the cooked pasta and chickpeas.

Add the spinach. Cook until the pasta is tender and the spinach has wilted about 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and stir it in.

Meanwhile, dry out the pot that the pasta was cooked in (to create fewer dishes to wash later) and add one tbsp of olive oil. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the panko and lemon zest. Toast the panko, stirring often so it doesn’t burn, for 3-4 minutes, until it is golden brown.

Spoon the pasta into serving bowls and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and top with toasted panko.

What you need

Here’s what you need for this chickpea salad:

Chickpeas – I’m just using canned here for convenience, but I’ve popped directions for cooking dried chickpeas in the recipe notes

Spinach – or anything similar that can be sliced thinly so it kind of melds in well with the chickpeas

Tomatoes – for pops of juicy freshness. Cherry or grape tomatoes, or large ones chopped into small pieces

Red onion – I like to do a simple quick pickle in vinegar, sugar and salt to make them floppy, bright pink, and add flavour. It takes just 30 minutes on the counter – or you can take the speedy option and microwave it for 2 minutes (which makes them instantly “pickled”) then just cool them

Feta – you’ll typically find some kind of “treat” in my main course salads – whether it’s nuts, croutons, bacon, parmesan. Today, it’s feta – on theme!

Dressing – red wine vinegar (loads of alternatives in the recipe), extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano (the Greek influence), and mustard (for thickening – we need it, to stick to the chickpeas better).

Spinach and chickpeas

First off, this dish is not called “spinach and chickpeas”, it is espinacas con garbanzos. Don’t you agree? “Spinach and chickpeas” is something you eat because you should — it is healthy and you aspire to be. Espinacas con garbanzos is something you eat because it sounds sexy, and doesn’t taste half bad either. It’s hearty and smoky with a little kick, you eat it on little fried bread toasts at a tapas bar in Spain.

Or, you know, in New York City on another brutally rainy March night. My friend Ang had a tapas pot-luck last Friday (the baby ditched us for a better party at his grandparents house) and, yes, I brought a Spanish dish to a Spanish party that did not include a single format of pork. Wild! Hey, I figured others would have the chorizos and jamón serranos covered. Me, I wanted some Spanish comfort food. I’d tried a version of this dish a few years ago, thanks to the sweet nudging of Ximena at Lobstersquad and instantly loved it. It sounds like it would be too simple to hold your interest, perhaps something you’d eat because you “ought” to, but it tastes like something you’ll crave again and again.

To make the dish, I used a blend of Ximena’s recipe and the fancier restaurant version in Moro: The Cookbook, a book I am going to confess that I cannot open very often because I immediately want to make every single thing in it right that very second and this crashes into the reality of being pressed for time and the longing, it is actually painful. No, I am not being melodramatic: Feta Salad with Spinach, Crispbread, Sumac and Pinenuts! Chestnut and Chorizo Soup! Seared Sirloin Salad with Barley and Grapes! And let’s not forgot that these are the same folks behind one of my favorite dishes on earth, this Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing. Do you get it now? Sigh.

I have digressed again. Good food distracts me like that. I think you’ll really like this dish.

Espinacas con Garbanzos [Spinach and Chickpeas]
Adapted from Moro: The Cookbook and Lobstersquad

One of the reason I blended recipes was because I wanted the approachability of Ximena’s version but also some of the extras in Moro’s — the vinegar, paprika and the fried bread, mashed to a paste. Except, in hindsight, I think I’d also enjoy this recipe without the bread. It would be a bit thinner and saucier and possibly harder to slop onto a piece of toast, but also a bit lighter — in weight, not just calories. If you’re bread-averse or think you’d enjoy it without the crumbs in the sauce, give it a spin and let us know how it goes.

Tomato sauce, by the way, is emphatically not traditional in this dish but after making Ximena’s version with it — she says “you don’t have to use tomato in this recipe, but it’s so much better with it” — I can’t have it any other way.

Last note: This recipe is flexible. If you end up with a little less spinach or a little more sauce, or if you want it with a little less this or a little more that, so be it. Enjoy it. Have fun with it.

1/2 pound (230 grams) dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender* or two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound (450 grams) spinach, washed
A hefty 1-inch slice from a country loaf or about 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread (2.5 ounces or 75 grams), crusts removed and cut inset small cubes
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce (I used canned stuff I keep around)
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika**
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.

Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.

If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top, or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).

* I make all of my dried beans in the slow-cooker these days. They are perfect every time, and the flavor of fresh beans — even the sad-looking ones from grocery store bins I used — is incomparable. No presoaking, just cover them 2 to 3 inches of water and cook them 3 hours on high. (I have learned that cooking time can vary widely in slow-cookers so allot more time than you might need. I often make mine in the day or days before and let them cool in their cooking water, which is then by then very flavorful.)

** This might be my favorite ingredient on earth — it’s amazing on eggs and potatoes, too. If you can’t find it locally, Amazon and Penzeys are among a bunch of places that sell it online.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (12 ounce) package (fully cooked) Italian Chicken Sausages
  • 1 large shallot, halved and sliced thin
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping cups orecchiette pasta
  • 1 quart (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • fresh basil, for serving
  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, deep sided, 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add in the sliced sausages and cook until the edges are golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set off to the side.
  3. To the pan, add the shallot and garlic, stir and cook until just softened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add in the pasta and all of the broth. Scrape up any brown pieces on the bottom of the pan before covering and increasing the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, uncover and reduce the heat to medium-medium high. Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the broth has reduced but is not fully absorbed (this makes the sauce).
  5. Reduce heat to low, add in the spinach, peas and Parmesan. Stir until the the spinach has wilted. Add in a few splashes of heavy cream before adding the sausages back in and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir and serve into bowls with extra Parmesan cheese over top.

25 thoughts on &ldquo Spanish-inspired Chickpeas, Chorizo and Spinach, inspired by the written word &rdquo

This looks so fresh and full of flavor! Very nice!

I wonder if the natural mold that grows on aged chorizo is specific to where it’s made, like certain cheeses or sourdough bread, both of which taste of where they are produced and what people are around.

Oh Terry, I just wrote about Barcelona today and you are bringing me back there with this delicious sounding recipe! Wonder if it might be nice with a little sherry thrown in? Nigella’s spanish stew, of which I am a massive fan, makes great use of it and the taste is wonderful…

Carolyn—Leave it to a science writer to think about the mold. I’m guessing that most commercial producers of chorizo rely on commercial starter mold cultures, but you do raise an interesting question about how smaller producers might achieve this and whether or not it affects the taste and the whole terroir aspect of sausage production. Among other things, for instance, the diet of the pigs would have a definite influence on the flavor, as would the source of the paprika used.

Laura—Some sherry might make a good addition. Although so would throwing a little sherry into the diners. Marion’s long been a fan of sherries, but I only recently got interested in them at a sherry tasting at the National Restaurant Association’s annual show.

Thanks for the chorizo primer…combining them with chickpeas sounds a perfect match–both bold flavors.
I like to share a little aside to the sherry discussion, specially the ‘adding it to the diners’ part. It reminds me of your other blog today, about the tote-your-own shopping bags. When I lived in England the village liquor store sold sherry out of big, was it oak? casks, just like out of Poe’s story. You brought your OWN bottle in and they filled it: amontillado, golden, I forget the selection. I thought that was pretty cool.

This looks so yummy. I love chorizo, and this does indeed look like a speedy dinner!

I hate chorizo that is all heat and no flavor. It’s happened more times than I care to count. I have to start writing down all the meat counters at the market that I visit and keep a running tally on who has what. I’m still looking for the right balance, and when I do, this recipe is at the top of the list to try.– Jean

oh yes sir! so I’ve done these flavors before, minus the chorizo, in a bread-thickened stew with some tomato. while that’s certainly yummy, I’m always up for a new way to use chorizo–I think I get into a rut, being down here in Texas, of always employing it at breakfast, or occasionally as a component for stuffed portobellos. I’m certain it will thank you for offering it a new job in my kitchen.

Protein, chickpeas and spinach- sounds very nutritious! A beautiful dish!

You’ve hit on 3 staples in my kitchen with this post! I’m a first time visitor to Blue Kitchen but enjoyed my visit and have subscribed so I don’t miss future posts. Nice work!

Carol—Thanks so much for the cool sherry story! We bought some grapeseed oil from a place here in Chicago that will give us a discount on our next batch if we bring in the bottle for them to refill.

Thanks, Alta! Yes, it is an impressively quick dish.

Jean—Check the ingredients list. If it doesn’t include chiles, you’re probably okay.

Nishta—Chorizo with portobello mushrooms sounds absolutely wonderful!

Thanks for stopping by, Miakoda!

Welcome to Blue Kitchen, joan Nova!

I came, I saw, I ate. (Spanish chorizo took some getting.)

Checking ingredients lists can work when there are some. I usually go to the west side market here in Cleveland. They are not prepackaged meats. — oh well, gives me an excuse to experiement.

altadenahiker—But once you got the Spanish chorizo, the hardest step was done, right?

Jean—Sounds like you’re getting great stuff then! Just ask the guys behind the counter how spicy it is—they can often be quite helpful.

Nice to read about Spanish chorizo. I’ve been using Mexican Chorizo, but never quite knew what to do with the harder version. It reminds me of the Tyrolian sausage I grew up with. I will have to try this recipe.

Otehlia—It really is closer to sausages in its density and texture. I hope you enjoy it!

I love that great blogs like this have great blog rolls on the side. It is like food linking heaven in here! I will be back if I don’t get lost.

Thanks so much, Zac! After a quick look at your blog, I’ve already bookmarked it. I’m a sucker for good, thoughtful writing. And I love the Jill quotes. You’re right—no one will really come to know your wife from these brief statements. Calvin Trillin’s wife Alice knew that people got completely the wrong impression of her from his writings. But in both cases, they will have some sense of your wonderful marriages, and perhaps that is enough.

Yeah, the wife totally knows as soon as she says something that may end up in the blog. Sometimes she starts with saying: “And this is NOT a Jill quote!”

I just found this recipe from a link on Summer Tomato and cooked it tonight – delicious!

I’m glad you liked it, Liv! I love when older posts like this one get new comments.

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  1. If using dried chick peas, soak them overnight in abundant water. In the morning, drain them, add to a large saucepan, and cover with fresh water that clears them by a few inches. Gently boil over medium-low heat for 2 hours or until tender but not mushy. Drain and reserve until needed for pasta.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook together until the ingredients are light golden. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Add the chickpeas, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  4. Cook the pasta until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the package directions), drain, and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and its water to the chickpea mixture and cook for one minute.
  5. Serve with grated Parmigiano.

Ed's Review

My birthday is fast approaching and so my mother has already brought over my annual gift bag. (For her, a gift is late if it isn’t two weeks early.) The goodie bag included the usual Mass card which assures that hundreds of nuns will pray for me every Sunday for the next year. In addition, this year there was a t-shirt that reads, “Smart, good looking, and Italian, it just doesn’t get any better than this.” I’m sure that it’s standard issue for all Italian mothers.

Is it any wonder that the average Italian male lives at home until the age of 35?

Of course, most cubs eventually do leave the den, and when they do, they are prepared to take on the world. By “prepared,” I’m not suggesting any sort of domestic or emotional skills, but rather only the ability to feed themselves well. The following recipe, along with some basic training, will allow the average good looking, smart, Italian male to survive without mamma in this cruel world. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

6 thoughts on &ldquoOrecchiette con Ceci (Chickpeas)&rdquo

I missed this recipe when it first appeared. What a winner! Simple – and just from the look and description of it – gotta be delicious. It is now printed and ready for Mz. Giambrone’s Cool Carb Celebration.

great. let me know how it goes…

Your mother is right on all counts: when to give a birthday gift (my BD is this month too – Sept. 27 – when is yours?) what t-shirt suits you to a tee and how to make such great food, her son has the recipes. Grazie, Eduardo Buon Compleanno.

the 26Th! cuon compleanno a te. e grazie per leggere!

Great recipe! An ideal dish on a chilly autumn’s evening or a wintry one, too! It reminds me of a Calabrian variant my mother used to make and still does, using lagane instead of orecchiette.

This recipe reminds me of my maternal grandmother Maria Celentano Primavera! She made Cici & pasta on Fridays because it had to be meatless…no pancetta, but it was delicious! Happy Birthday! You surely bring joy to many people by sharing your recipes, wine and stories!


Step 1

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Fry rosemary, turning, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Step 2

Add sausage to same pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.

Step 3

Add chickpeas to pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some chickpeas with spoon, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer about half of chickpeas to plate with sausage. Add wine to pot, bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Step 4

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.

Step 5

Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with chickpeas and add escarole and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing often, until escarole is wilted, pasta is al dente, and sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes. Add another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add ½ cup cheese, tossing until melted and dissolved into a luxurious, glossy sauce. Thin with more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed. Add butter and toss to combine, then mix in reserved sausage and chickpeas.

Step 6

Divide pasta among bowls. Crumble rosemary over top and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.

Frozen chopped spinach is an asset in this dish for the same reason that you might usually avoid it: It&rsquos naturally soft and limp, and it turns downright silky when it&rsquos cooked. That texture is the result of the freeze‑thaw process, which significantly damages the leaves&rsquo cells, causing water to leak out so that the leaves collapse even before they&rsquore cooked. And that ultrasoft texture is exactly what gives frozen spinach a leg up on fresh in this dish: It disperses easily instead of clumping, melds seamlessly with the softened chickpeas, and readily captures all the flavorful juices that surround it. Frozen spinach also comes with some bonus perks: It&rsquos less expensive and more compact and can be stored for much longer than fresh spinach.

Interestingly, though, that was hard to achieve with fresh spinach, which tended to clump up even when I prechopped it and always seemed a bit chewy. So I was delighted to discover a recipe by Alexandra Raij, chef/owner of three Spanish restaurants in New York City, that calls for thawed frozen chopped spinach. Lopez confirmed that he uses it in his version as well, and really, it&rsquos so smart: Freezing tenderizes the vegetable, so it&rsquos soft even as it goes into the pot (for more information, see &ldquoFrozen Spinach Is More Than Just Convenient&rdquo).

I stirred 10 ounces into the pan along with the picada and simmered the mixture until it was thick and stew-like. Then I poured in more olive oil&mdashlots more. &ldquoThe way the Spaniards like their vegetables,&rdquo Hansen told me, is &ldquoglistening with olive oil.&rdquo

So I kept drizzling until the dish was almost creamy&mdashbecause the final result should be, as Hansen described, &ldquoalmost a spinach&ndasholive oil emulsion.&rdquo

Briefly simmering the chickpeas in a mixture of chicken broth and their canning liquid softens them and infuses them with subtly savory flavor.

Recipe Espinacas con Garbanzos (Andalusian Spinach and Chickpeas)

Andalusian espinacas con garbanzos&mdasha merger of meltingly soft chickpeas, fruity olive oil, and garlic with tender spinach and spices&mdashis the finest example of culinary fusion.


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