Chickpea Stew with Italian Sausage

Chickpea Stew with Italian Sausage

Serves 6

Weeknight Version

5 – 15 ounce cans cooked chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and drained again

3 to 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Weekend Version

1 pound dried chickpeas, rinsed, and soaked overnight covered in at least 2 inches of water

1 28-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, put through a food mill to crush and remove seeds

Both Versions

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the sausages

6 ounces pancetta, finely minced

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 pound Italian sausage links (sweet or hot)

¼ pound spaghetti, broken into pieces and cooked until done (optional)

Grated Pecorino cheese for serving

Make the tomato sauce:  heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan and add the pancetta.  Cook until it’s nice and crisp, then add the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper.  Cook until you smell the garlic, then add the tomatoes (either crushed or milled).  Simmer for 15 minutes, then set aside.

Make the chickpeas:  for the weeknight version, put the drained canned chickpeas in a large pot and add 3 cups of stock.  Bring to a simmer.  For the weekend version, drain the soaked chickpeas, then put them back in the pot.  Cover them with at least 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer until done, anywhere from one to three hours (depending on the age of the chickpeas).  Drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid.  Add the chickpeas and 3 cups of the liquid back to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Reserve the rest of the liquid.

Cook the sausages:  Prick the sausage links with a fork in several places.  Heat a little olive oil in a skillet large enough to hold all the sausage links, then brown the sausages all over.  Remove the sausages to a cutting board and let them cool for a couple of minutes.  Then slice them into ½-inch pieces.  Reheat the skillet and add the sliced sausage pieces, cooking until they’re lightly browned.  Remove the sausage pieces with a slotted spoon and add them to the chickpeas.  Pour the fat out of the skillet, then add some of the chickpea cooking liquid or stock to the pan – place it over low heat and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits.  Pour the liquid from the skillet into the pot with the chickpeas.

Finishing:  Add the tomato sauce to the chickpeas and sausages and simmer for 20 minutes to blend the flavors.  Add more stock or cooking liquid to the pot if you’d like it to be more like a soup.  To serve, put a little of the cooked spaghetti in each bowl, if desired, and then ladle the chickpea mixture over the top.  Serve with a little grated Pecorino cheese.

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