Spring is the perfect time to make this dish; it's when locally grown celery shows up at farmers markets. Regardless of the season, use the freshest celery you can find, and don't be shy about adding lots of parsley to finish.
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more the cooking water
- 1 1/2 cups celery pieces, cut on the diagonal 1/4-inch wide (first cut vertically if the ribs are especially wide)
- 8 ounces dried pasta, preferably penne or another short, tubular shape
- 1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed, then chopped
- 2 dried arbol chili peppers, seeded and broken into small pieces
- 1 1/2 cups cooked or canned no-salt-added chickpeas (if using canned, drain and rinse)
- 1/4 cup packed, coarsely chopped parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt, then add the celery; cook/blanch for 1 or 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or Chinese skimmer to transfer the celery to a colander, and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Drain.
Once the water in the pot returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
When the pasta is about 5 minutes from being al dente, heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic (to taste) and dried arbol peppers; cook, stirring every minute or so, until the garlic is almost golden and the peppers are starting to brown. Stir in the blanched celery and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; it should be tender yet retain a little resistance. Stir in the chickpeas, season with the 1 teaspoon of salt and with black pepper to taste, and warm through.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of its cooking water. Add the pasta, the parsley and a few tablespoons of the cooking water to the pan, stirring to incorporate the ingredients and dislodge any bits of garlic or peppers stuck to the bottom of the pan. If the mixture seems dry, add more of the reserved cooking water.
Ladle the mixture into individual wide, shallow bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil over each portion. Serve right away, offering grinds of black pepper at the table.
From Washington freelance writer Emily Horton.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
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