Chickpea gratin w/ spicy tomato sauce

This is one of my favorite recipes, fast, easy, and delicious. As with much of my cooking, it was inspired by Mark Bittman, whose How to Cook Everything Vegetarian includes a recipe for Lima Bean Parmesan. My version is a riff on one of his suggested variations.While I always use dried beans, I don’t think this recipe would suffer from canned.

I learned how to make tomato sauce years ago, in Italy. A friend and I got stuck one night with no place to stay after spending the day at Pompeii. Which, by the way, is one of the weirdest, coolest places that I’ve ever been. I still sometimes come up short, envisioning my life turned inside out and preserved in ash. It’s eerie. And inspiring. But back to tomato sauce. I learned how to make it because our tour guide, Andre, took pity on us and invited us to stay the night. Dinner was simple: pasta with tomato sauce. It looked so easy! And so it was.

Over the years I’ve adapted Andre’s recipe, mostly with the addition of dried chilies, but the basic technique is his. If you want to make a tomato cream sauce, as Andre did that night, just stir a couple of tablespoons of sour cream into the finished sauce at the end. If you prefer a smooth sauce, blend with an immersion blender. You could also substitute a prepared tomato sauce if desired. But I encourage you to make your own if at all possible. It’s ridiculously easy and doesn’t take long. It also freezes well, so I usually double the recipe and freeze half for another night.

Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 28-oz (or 32-oz) can whole plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 dried chili peppers
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. red wine, optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chilies. Saute for 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is just starting to turn to gold. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, occasionally stirring and pressing the tomatoes against the bottom of the pan, until they break down and the sauce begins to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and salt and pepper. Continue cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes.

1 recipe (about 1-1/2 c.) tomato sauce
2-1/2 c. cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 c. fresh bread crumbs (2 slices of good quality bread, crusts removed, processed in the food processor)
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Place the tomato sauce in the bottom of a gratin dish. Add the chickpeas. Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, and olive oil together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the bread crumb mixture on top of the chickpeas. Transfer the gratin to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the top is brown. Serve with salad.

5 comments on “Chickpea gratin w/ spicy tomato sauce

  1. Therese says:

    This sounds wonderful and involves ingredients I always have in the house! After returning from quick weekend in CA and no time to restock the refrig, I think I will try this one this week! Thanks.

  2. Therese says:

    What happened the the background music????

  3. Daryl says:

    I do wish I had an oven. Do you think it would work in my microwave/convection oven?

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