They say desperation is the mother of invention, right? Something like that.
In my case, a months-long drought of Spanish chorizo at the grocery store took me down a path of recipe tinkering that resulted in a vegan pasta dish that — dare I say it — makes me feel downright smug.
It all started at least a decade ago, when I stumbled upon this excellent 2007 recipe for spaghetti with chorizo and almonds from Epicurious. Spanish chorizo's beguiling subtlety shines when paired with such like-minded co-stars as garlic, dry white wine and floral saffron — then tossed with pasta and the welcomed heft of creamy chickpeas and toasted almonds.
The resulting dish is gorgeous and balanced — tinted orange from the rendered chorizo and saffron-tinged stock. It promptly joined my regular cooking rotation, where it deliciously remained until I could never seem to find Spanish chorizo at my local grocery store.
Mexican chorizo proved too strongly seasoned to work as a replacement; nor could I nail down a satisfying dry-cured pork substitute. So I instead leaned into the dish's other alluringly subtle components, most of which happen to be vegan. I subbed in vegetable stock for chicken broth — mainly because it's my preferred boxed stock where flavor is concerned. I subbed in lemon juice for the wine because I always have plenty of the former on hand. But over time, I appreciated its pronounced citrus tang, particularly for how it brightens that vintagey saffron.
The finished dish is elegantly understated and a textural delight. (See? There I go with the smugness.) I'm not entirely sure when the vegan version officially replaced the original in my monthly rotation. However, I can tell you that my self-righteousness transcends time.
Recipe: Saffron and chickpea pasta
Salt, as needed
1 box spaghetti
Olive oil, as needed
6 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus a handful more for garnish
Pinch red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
Juice of one juicy lemon (or 1 ½ if your lemon is stingy)
⅓ cup low-sodium vegetable stock
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds, dry toasted in a skillet (save a tiny handful for garnish, please)
Handful of fresh chive blades, minced (optional)
- While you bring a large, generously salted pot of water to a boil for your pasta, heat a heavy-bottomed pot or skillet over medium-high. Add a generous ¼ cup of olive oil to the skillet. When it shimmers, add the garlic, chickpeas, parsley, red pepper flakes, saffron and a large pinch of salt.
- Sauté until the chickpeas soften a little and the garlic just turns golden.
- Add the lemon juice and vegetable stock, cover the skillet, and bring to a boil. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the liquid reduces by half or so. Taste it at some point during the simmer stage, adjusting as needed with lemon juice and salt.
- Cook your pasta until it is al dente, then add it promptly to the skillet along with the toasted almonds and a glug of olive oil; toss until everything is yellow-tinged and glossy.
- Plate in warmed shallow bowls, garnished with the rest of the herbs and almonds and another shiny drizzle of olive oil.
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