Pasta Pugliana

 A sublime pasta dish combining bacon, garbanzo beans and arugula. A recipe straight from Italy, thanks to a generous friend and host.

6–8 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
3–6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 14-ounce cans cooked garbanzos (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
3½ to 4 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh arugula, washed and drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound orecchiette pasta (or medium shells)

Brown bacon in a large, deep cooking pot (one sufficient to hold the sauce plus the cooked pasta). Remove bacon; crumble and reserve. In the bacon fat (about two tablespoons), cook the onion over medium heat until translucent; add the garlic and cook until soft but not browned.

Stir in one can of the drained beans. Mash about 1/2 of the beans in the second can (in a blender with a little broth is easiest though this also can be done with the back of a spoon in the cooking pan). Add mashed and remaining beans and heat through.

Stir in the flour and, continuously stirring, cook for 2–3 minutes, until the flour smells nutty and is gently browned. Pour in a little broth and stir until incorporated, making sure there are no lumps of flour in the sauce. Slowly add the rest of the broth, stirring until blended and smooth. Stir in wine. Allow to simmer over medium-low heat until thick.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

Add the herbs, pepper and arugula to the garbanzo sauce and continue to simmer.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, stirring to coat. Add the crumbled bacon, mozzarella and about 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese; stir to incorporate. Once the mozzarella is a little melty, serve with additional Parmesan cheese and grated black pepper.

NOTE: For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and add Penzey’s Pork Chop Seasoning to the garbanzos. This will give the pasta a smoky taste. It also increases the salt content, so adjust accordingly.

VARIATION: You can also reserve the arugula, serving it as a bed of fresh greens for the pasta.

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