Italian-style Pasta with Chickpeas and Basil

Serves 3-4
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg, or soy)

Elegantly simple, this can be used as a side dish or main. Like pesto, many traditional Italian pasta sauces look more like salad dressings. They are intensely flavoured and used sparingly. Another authentic practice is to use some of the starchy, pasta cooking water to augment and thicken the sauce.

Legumes such as chickpeas are used abundantly in Mediterranean cooking. Their blandness is a perfect foil for the creaminess of olive oil and the sharp punctuation of lemon, herbs and spices. Nutritionally, dried peas and beans are a good source of protein, fibre and minerals. The protein from plants (found in legumes; grains; nuts and seeds; and a little in vegetables and fruit) increases in value and usability when foods from 3 or more of the 4 categories are mixed in the same meal. Legumes are particularly helpful in regulating blood sugar levels for sustained vitality and easy weight maintenance. See HEALTH STORE for You Are Just A Few Steps Away From Peak Vitality.

To serve this as a main dish accompany with whole baby beetroot or corn on the cob, plus a salad with avocado or toasted pine nuts.

2 cups cooked chickpeas* (can be tinned and drained; check label for sugar,
1¼ cups lightly packed, chopped fresh basil
4 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil*
2 large garlic cloves
1¼ tsp sea salt with kelp*
1¼ tsp smoky paprika*
150 g cornmeal pasta or rice pasta*

In a food processor place 1 cup chickpeas, ½ cup basil, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and paprika. Process on low speed just until coarsely chopped. To keep the texture varied and interesting (rather than pureed) stir in the remaining chickpeas.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Turn off the heat. Drain and reserve ½ cup (125 ml) hot pasta-cooking water. Place the saucepan back on the burner for residual heat. Return the pasta to the saucepan. Stir in reserved liquid, bean mixture and stir. Immediately before serving, toss with the remaining basil.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

• Legumes: pod-bearing plants such as peas, beans, soy and lentils. Soak overnight and discard water to help eliminate an enzyme that can lead to poor digestion and gas. Add ample fresh water. Bring to a boil uncovered (watch for foaming; do not add salt as this slows cooking) until soft enough to squeeze between your fingers. They will almost triple in volume. See The Shape Diet for individual cooking times. Or buy cooked and tinned (Ceres and Delmaine brands in supermarkets have only salt, water). Cook extra and freeze, or chill and use within a week in fritters, casseroles, salads, soups, stews.

• Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.

• Paprika: only use top quality smoky, sweet Spanish paprika such as La Chinata. This is usually sold in small decorative tins in the supermarket. Ordinary paprika is usually stale, pale and without the punchy vigour essential to this dish.

• Pasta: one widely available gluten-free brand is Orgran – found in most supermarkets. There are numerous, delicious shapes and types.

• Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.

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