The Washington Post

Pesto Penne With Chickpeas

Pesto Penne With Chickpeas 4.000

Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Dinner in Minutes May 1, 2018

Former White House chef Sam Kass says this dish has some positive political karma attached to it, which is why he calls it Lucky Pasta in his new cookbook. We like its addition of spinach, and it has rekindled our love of small-size penne pasta -- not to mention the slight sweetness that pecans bring to the pesto.

Leftovers taste great cold.

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4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • 8 ounces frozen spinach (bagged, not in a block)
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 to 16 ounces mini penne or other small dried pasta shape
  • One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas
  • One 1.5-ounce chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup pecan halves (may substitute pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling


Place the spinach in a colander in the sink to defrost and drain while you make the rest of the dish.

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and the pasta; cook according to the package directions (somewhat firm), then strain out the water, reserving 1 cup. Leave the pasta in the pot.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas; smash a few of them, if you like. Then stir them into the cooked pasta (to warm up).

Meanwhile, use a Microplane or box grater to grate the cheese, to yield about 1/3 cup.

Drop the garlic into a food processor with the motor running, so it becomes finely chopped. Stop to add the basil, nuts, half the cheese, half the oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; pulse to create a coarse puree. With the motor running, gradually add the remaining oil and puree to form a fairly smooth pesto.

Use your hands to squeeze excess moisture from the spinach and then place the greens in a serving bowl. Add the pesto and the pasta-chickpea mixture, then toss to incorporate. Add a splash or two of the reserved pasta cooking water if the mixture seems dry. Taste and season with salt, as needed.

Divide among bowls; top with the remaining cheese and a drizzle of oil.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World," by Sam Kass (Clarkson Potter, 2018).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (based on 6): 510

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 25g 38%

Saturated Fat: 4g 20%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 360mg 15%

Total Carbohydrates: 57g 19%

Dietary Fiber: 5g 20%

Sugar: 3g

Protein: 15g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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