This picnic-ready pasta salad is inspired by the classic roman dish Pasta e Ceci, a warming, winter bowlful of pasta and chickpeas in a tomato paste-based sauce. Our summer version uses a can of chickpeas to the fullest, utilizing the aquafaba (chickpea cooking liquid) to make a zippy, lemony, vegan aioli as well as crisping the beans themselves for a crunchy topping. And, bonus: since the aioli dressing is egg-free, you don't have to worry about it sitting in the sun!
Vegan aioli technique adapted from Serious Eats’ recipe for “Easy Vegan Mayonniase” by J. Kenji López-Alt
Recipe, food styling & photography by Asha Loupy. This recipe was originally published May 2020.
To make the dressing, combine 3 tablespoons of the canned chickpea liquid (aquafaba), 12 chickpeas, one clove of finely chopped garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a blender. Blend on high until smooth (alternatively, you can use an immersion blender and a tall blending jar or container).
With the blender running on medium high, slowly begin to drizzle 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, starting with a couple drops at a time until an emulsion starts to form. Continue to drizzle the oil in a thin steady stream until the mixture is smooth, thick and creamy. Transfer the aioli to a large bowl, big enough to dress the pasta salad in, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, according to the instructions on the package, until al dente. Drain and let cool until warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking and cooling, make the crispy chickpeas. Drain the remaining can of chickpeas, rinsing and patting them dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel.
Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and continue to heat for another 30 seconds. Add the drained chickpeas and remaining teaspoon of salt, stirring to coat in the beans in the olive oil. Cook, undisturbed, until their skins start to blister and turn golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are crispy and deep golden brown, about another 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. Remove from the heat, stir in the IASA hot pepper and fennel pollen and set aside.
To assemble the pasta salad, remove the lemony aioli from the refrigerator, add the reserved warm pasta, chopped capers and black pepper and toss to coat the pasta in the dressing. Add the chicories, half the reserved crispy chickpeas and gently toss to combine. Transfer the pasta salad with a large serving platter and garnish with the remaining half of the crispy chickpeas. Serve at room temperature.