Recipe: Ceci Penne Florentine

In Italy, the garbanzo bean or chick pea is called the ceci bean. Florentine, in addition to referring to the Tuscan town of Florence, is a name also added to dishes made with spinach.

For this recipe you may substitute penne rigate (ridged) for the smooth penne; it’s entirely up to you. It may depend on what pasta varieties your local market carries on their shelves.

Pair this dish with a mixed-greens salad tossed with orange slices and a citrus vinaigrette for a light yet satisfying summer meal.

Ceci Penne Florentine with a Green Salad

8 oz. whole grain penne
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1 15 oz. cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups (about 12 oz.) shredded fresh spinach leaves
¾ cup vegetable broth
½ teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ tablespoon cornstarch
1½ tablespoons water

Bring a stockpot of water to a boil, add the penne, and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside. Splash with a bit of olive oil and stir to lightly coat in order to keep the pasta from sticking together while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Meanwhile, while the penne is cooking, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is beginning to turn translucent – 7-10 minutes. Do not brown. Stir in the bell pepper and sauté, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the garbanzo beans, shredded spinach, vegetable broth, orange peel, salt, sage, and nutmeg. Gently simmer until the spinach has wilted – 3-5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Mix ½ tablespoon of cornstarch with 1½ tablespoons of water and add to the skillet, stirring well to disperse it throughout the mixture. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes until it has thickened somewhat.

Remove from heat. Combine the cooked penne and the garbanzo mixture in a large serving bowl, stirring gently but thoroughly to coat.

Yield: 6 servings

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