This recipe comes from three different places: a weathered cookbook found in a cold farmhouse in Tuscany in mid-January, the kitchen of Roberta’s in Bushwick, and a Emiko Davies column on food52.
The weathered cookbook found in a cold farmhouse in Tuscany belonged to Bosa. I was named for Bosa’s mother, Nina, whom I never met. Until recently, Bosa lived part time in the old family villa just outside Florence. She is a few years older than my parents and lives in New York full time now. The town was called Strada-in-Chianti and the villa, Ulivello. It captured my imagination long before I ever saw the place: my mother would tell me stories of visiting the house, of eating there, of walking through the olive orchards that spilled into the hills below. I first visited one summer during college. I took my best friend and we fell in love with the house, soaking up as much sun and olive oil as our bodies would allow.
I discovered the weathered cookbook a year and a half later on my second visit to Ulivello. It fell in January, halfway though a year abroad in Paris. I was there alone with Bosa. I played music to pass the time between our car trips to small towns where I was the only American that time of year. We shared the cooking. Both of us prefer cooking alone and switched nights. While she cooked, I poured over her collection of cookbooks, mostly “Italian Country Cooking” of one stripe or another. One recipe stuck out to me, for a farro risotto with sage, orange and chickpeas. I wrote it down on scrap paper and took it back to Paris with me. I have since lost the recipe I jotted down, but remember the assembly of flavors was delightful.
Part two of my recipe is adapted from the Roberta’s Cookbook. The chefs behind the Bushwick staple are creative and innovative, but their recipes are particular and often too specific for casual home cooking. Roberta’s is best known for their pizza, but the menu and cookbook offer a range of dishes, each attentive to detail and balance. I was intrigued by a recipe for pasta with a citrus juice sauce. The savory/sweet/smokey combination is remarkable and unexpected. The wooly smoke of fiore sardo, a Sardinian pecorino, brings out the sweet tang of ripe winter citrus.
Then, finally, I spotted Emiko Davies’ recipe for pasta e ceci on food52. Her column on regional Italian cooking is a go-to for me. She expresses the balance and richness of flavors of many traditions beautifully. I took her combination of pasta and chickpeas and melded it together with Roberta’s citrus sauce, taking the sage and orange from that weathered cookbook.
serves two to four
8oz short pasta (I used radiatori)
8oz dried chickpeas or 1 can of chickpeas
2 cups orange juice (about five oranges)
zest of one orange
3oz finely grated fiore sardo
If using dried chickpeas, soak them the night before. A few hours before making the pasta, set them up to cook. Transfer the soaked chickpeas and a bay leaf to a medium saucepan. Cover with an inch of water and keep at a steady simmer until done, about two hours. Drain the chickpeas, making sure to reserve the cooking water.
Set a pot of water boiling to cook the pasta. Zest one orange and set aside. Juice the remaining oranges. In a wide pan, reduce the orange juice by at least half. Add chickpeas and 1/2 cup of their water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, salt it and add the pasta. Undercook the pasta by about two minutes — it should still have a bite. It will finish cooking in the pan with its sauces. While the pasta cooks, heat a couple tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Let it begin to brown and then add the sage leaves, frying them until crispy.
Once the pasta is done, reserve 1/2 cup of its cooking water and drain. Add to the pan with the orange juice and chickpeas. Add the reserved pasta water and stir over medium high heat, making sure everything is coated evenly. Grate enough fiore sardo over the pan and continue stirring. Pour the sage butter over the pasta. Arrange the fried leaves over the top and bring to the table.