Pasta with Broccoli Romanesco and Chickpeas

For reasons I cannot quite pinpoint, my cooking mojo has disappeared the past few weeks. Maybe it is the neither-here-nor-there winter we are having in Northern California, or the inevitable decline in innovation that comes at the tail end of a season. But whatever the case may be, thank goodness that some variation of pasta with vegetables and legumes always works for a quick weekday dinner. The beauty of this meal is that it primarily relies on ingredients you typically have on hand, and exact proportions don’t matter. Cooking these humble basics together elevates them to something far more special, with very little effort.

As I’ve probably mentioned too many times, my cooking inspiration usually comes from the CSA box and the crisper drawer. Grounding a meal around a (preferably local and organic) vegetable is somehow easier than starting with any other pantry staples. Not to mention healthier. This simple meal begins with the bumpy, lumpy, gorgeously lime green broccoli romanesco, which appears to have landed in the 21st century straight from the Jurassic era.

But any broccoli would be a perfect substitute, as would a combo of other cruciferous vegetables. I throw in olives and capers for a salty tang, and chickpeas for protein. This is a great “transition” dish for kids who prefer their food components separate but are willing to try a more “adult” meal where everything is tossed together.

On a separate note, in honor of my one-year anniversary of blogging at A Happier Meal, I made some updates to the design and functionality of the site, including a direct to Pinterest button. Enjoy!


Prep time: 10 minutes. Total Time: 30-40 minutes.

Serves 4

  • Pasta of your choosing, in the amount you need (I used garganelli here)
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 head of organic broccoli romanesco, cut into small florets
  • 1-2 tbsp capers
  • 8-10 olives, chopped if pitted; kalamatas work great
  • 1 1/2 cups of organic cooked chickpeas
  • Grated Parmesan, Pecorino or another easy-to-grate cheese

Pantry staples + a vegetable

Sliced garlic

Olives and capers

Boil salted water for pasta. In the meantime, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan and add anchovies. Move them around the pan until they “melt” or disappear into the oil, the toss in the broccoli romanesco florets. Saute on high heat for a few minutes, until they begin to caramelize, then lower the heat to medium. Add in the sliced garlic, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the broccoli is tender. Be sure not to burn the garlic at this stage.

Toss in the pasta and cook per directions on the package.

Once the broccoli is done, add in the capers, olives, and chickpeas. Add more olive oil if needed. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water, drain the rest and add pasta to the saute pan with the vegetables. Add pasta water a little at a time, toss all the ingredients well, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. I personally love to throw in red chile flakes at this point too, depending on heat preference.

Ready for pasta

Serve topped with grated cheese. If you have extra time, this is also delicious baked for 15-20 minutes in a 400° oven, covered with foil except for the last 5 minutes.

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