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Pasta with Chickpeas, Fennel and Saffron

Pasta with Chickpeas, Fennel and Saffron Recipe

Servings 4 servings
Author Brandon Matzek


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks and core removed, chopped (reserve fronds)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 9 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups cooked) chickpeas (prepared from dry*)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 ounces ditalini or other small pasta


  • Warm olive oil in a large, cast-iron pot over medium heat. Add the chopped fennel and onion along with a big pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until soft (about 5 minutes). Stir in garlic, fennel seeds and saffron, and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add diced tomatoes (with all of the juices), chickpeas, 1/2 cup water, a couple pinches of salt and several turns of black pepper. Let the sauce come to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer partially covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  • While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook ditalini to al dente, using the package instructions as a timing guide. Drain pasta.
  • If serving the entire amount of pasta and sauce, toss both together in a big bowl and divide between 4 to 6 bowls. If serving just a few portions, spoon pasta into individual bowls, and top with a big spoonful of sauce. Finish each bowl with a sprinkling of black pepper and chopped fennel fronds.


*I like to brine the dried chickpeas overnight and then cook quickly in my pressure cooker. You'll need 1/2 cup dried chickpeas for this recipe, but I would recommend preparing the chickpeas in bulk and then using in various dishes throughout the week. They're great with pasta or on salads. You can also blend them up into homemade hummus!