I’ve wanted to make a gluten-free chickpea flour-based fresh pasta for some time now. A previous attempt at chickpea flour and potato-based gnocchi produced gummy and underwhelming results, to say nothing of the gluey mess it left all over our kitchen counters. I had all but given up until I came across this recipe for Chickpea Spaetzle from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman’s cookbook, Simple to Spectacular. Instantly, I knew this recipe would be a winner.
For starters, the simple dough is extruded and plopped right into boiling water–no messy rolling pin action or complicated pasta machines to contend with. In addition to the ease of preparation, this method reminds me of how funnel cake is made, which–let’s face it– is appealing in its own right.
Secondly, the small, soft pasta ‘dumplings’ it produces are the perfect size and texture to share with the youngest members of our family who are flirting with finger foods. (Spaetzle is a German/Austrian egg noodle, typically wheat-based–though the recipe below is actually eggless.) If you want to share the spaetzle with your kids, treat it as you would any other fresh pasta or orzo and add a favorite sauce. You may also want to leave out the cayenne pepper from the dough.
Lastly, eating a bowlful of chickpea-flour based pasta is a much lower carb, higher fiber and higher protein affair than eating a bowlful of conventional pasta (or GF brown rice pasta), which is welcome news to those waist-watching, blood-sugar monitoring, pasta-fiends I count among my friends. (For a review of the nutritional merits of chickpea flour, check out my previous post on the topic.)
We had to make a few adjustments to JG’s recipe (the hubris!). The original called for 1/4 cup milk, when, in reality, our batter needed closer to 1/2 cup (plus 1-2 TBSP) to be anything resembling a functional pasta dough based on the coarseness of the flour brand we used (Bob’s Red Mill). We also chose to extrude the dough through a potato ricer rather than a coarse colander or a “spaetzle maker” (umm… guess we forgot to register for one of those when we got married) as the original recipe suggested. If you do use the potato ricer as we did, be forewarned you’ll need to use a bit of elbow grease to press the thick dough through… but the result was magical … soft but firm and almost orzo or risotto-like in texture. (The long strands will break apart when cooking to produce the spaetzle’s characteristic texture.)
Plus, watching the hairlike spaetzle dough get squeezed out of the potato ricer and then cutting it off to fall into the boiling water reminded me of the Play Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop I had as a kid, which was a fun little trip down memory lane. If you have neither a coarse colander nor a potato ricer, based on the photos of what a spaetzle maker looks like, I’d bet a cheese grater would work well, too.
Recipe: Chickpea Spaetzle with Eggplant (adapted from a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman)
Serves 2 as a light entree; 4 as an appetizer
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo bean flour (aka gram flour, besan flour, chickpea bean flour)
1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP milk (lactose-free works fine)
5 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup 1/2″ cubes eggplant (peeled if skin is thick)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup pitted black olives, chopped (canned is fine)
Minced cilantro for garnish
- Bring large pot of water to boil and salt it.
- Pour milk and 1 TBSP of the olive oil into a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix chickpea flour with salt and cayenne. Add chickpea flour mixture to wet ingredients, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing as you go, until the whole amount is added and dough is a coherent, pasta dough texture. Add a large pinch of salt and a small pinch of cayenne and mix well, using hands to knead if necessary. Note: if you use a different brand of flour, the coarseness of its grind may require more or less milk. Adjust flour/milk quantities as necessary to produce a thick but coherent dough that is tacky but not overly sticky.
- Strain the batter through a coarse colander or potato ricer (assuming you don’t have a spaetzle maker) into the boiling water and cook until the noodles rise to the top, just a couple of minutes. Drain in a strainer or colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking; drain again. (Note: you can prepare the noodles a day in advance up until this point; refrigerate, covered, until you’re ready to cook the rest of the dish.)
- Put the cumin seeds into a small skillet and turn the heat to medium. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until cumin is fragrant, just a minute or two. Set aside.
- Put the remaining 4 TBSP oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the eggplant and turn the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant turns tender and begins to brown. Add garlic and cook another minute.
- Add the spaetzle, cumin, olives, salt and cayenne to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Approximate nutrition info per serving: Spaetzle only (assumes recipe above uses 1% milk and makes 4 appetizer servings): 270 calories, 38g carbohydrate (of which 10 grams are fiber, for a total of 28g net carbohydrate), 14g protein, 8g fat, 3.6mg iron (20% daily value for adults).
Approximate nutrition info per serving: Spaetzle with Eggplant per recipe above: (assumes recipe above uses 1% milk and makes 4 appetizer servings): ~400 calories, 40g carbohydrate (of which 11g are fiber, for a total of 29 net grams of carbohydrate), 14g protein, 23g fat, 3.6mg iron (20% of the daily value for adults).
Note that this is a classic Mediterranean diet style recipe, whose complex carbohydrate, high fiber, fat and protein content make it a low-glycemic dish.
*If you’re concerned about feeding chickpea spaetzle to babies under 1 year old because of the milk content, be aware that the concern about cow’s milk before 12 months refers to drinking it in place of breastmilk or formula. A bit of cow’s milk as an ingredient in a cooked mixed dish after 6 months of age is really no different than giving your baby yogurt with regards to the allergenic potential of the milk protein itself. If however, you’ve decided you want to avoid milk protein altogether in your baby’s first year, then this isn’t a recipe for you.
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