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Crispy fried pasta pairs a savory crunch with chickpeas

This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for crispy chickpea pasta. (Milk Street via AP)

Italians know well that the texture of pasta matters greatly. Hence, the emphasis on cooking it until just barely al dente, or until tender, but with a pleasant chew. But that’s not where the lesson stops. In Lecce, an ancient city in southern Italy, we learned the delicious joy of mixing pasta textures — some perfectly al dente, some fried in olive oil until lightly browned, nutty and wonderfully crisp. We were at an understated eatery called Le Zie Trattoria, where chef/owner Anna Carmela Perrone cooks up glistening stacks of eggplant planks and creamy fava bean purees, among many great choices. But the standout is her ciceri e tria, a simple tangle of broad strips of pasta paired with chickpeas. Except it isn’t all that simple. The pasta in the dish is cooked two ways: Half is fried until crisp, tan and crunchy, almost like a wonton, while the other half is simmered directly in the sauce. In our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, we streamlined the dish into a weeknight-friendly, one-pot vegetarian meal that comes together in 35 minutes. We fry the first portion of pasta in oil until crisped, then add the chickpeas and a couple of bay leaves. The remaining pasta goes into to the pot, along with the starchy liquid from the can of chickpeas, some water and a little salt and pepper to create the sauce. Once the second portion is softened, the crispy pasta returns to the pot, and everything simmers together until the sauce lightly clings. Lemon zest and juice and chopped fresh parsley add brightness to balance the starches. If you have trouble finding fresh pasta, use an 8.8-ounce package of dried pappardelle made with egg; the noodles are packaged in nests that are easy to break into pieces. Keep in mind, however, that dried pappardelle toasts more quickly than fresh pasta — in about 8 minutes.

Crispy Pasta with Chickpeas, Lemon and Parsley

Start to finish: 35 minutes. Servings: 4.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

9 ounces fresh fettuccine, cut into rough 2-inch lengths

15½-ounce can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

In a large pot over medium, combine the oil and half of the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is crisp and deeply browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

To the oil remaining in the pot, add the chickpeas and bay. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas darken slightly and the bay is toasted, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining pasta, ¾ cup of chickpea liquid (supplement with water if needed), 2¼ cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is heated through and slightly softened, about 2 minutes.

Add the toasted pasta and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, until the untoasted pasta is al dente and the sauce lightly clings, about 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, then remove and discard the bay. Stir in the lemon zest and juice and parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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