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Cascatelli pasta with pesto sauce, chickpeas and kale, topped with creamy grated ricotta salata cheese. This super-tasty pasta is a satisfying meatless meal that’s ready to eat in 15 minutes!
Attention pasta lovers — there’s a new pasta shape in town! Have you heard of cascatelli?
This toothsome new short pasta shape is a game changer. Once you try it you might not want to go back to everyday penne!
What’s cascatelli pasta?
The pasta is bite-size, shaped like waterfalls that look like curly pasta strips with frilly ruffled edges. They have the toothsome thickness of bucatini and resemble miniature curly lasagna noodles or mafaldine.
- The texture! Ridges and curls have stellar holding power for sauce.
- “Forkability”, meaning it’s easy to grab the pasta with a fork and not drop them back onto the plate.
- Slow dried and extruded with bronze dies, produced by the artisanal Sfoglini pasta brand.
Cascatelli shines with all your favorite sauces, such as basic tomato pasta sauce, pesto sauce or just butter and cheese! Kids love it because they can easily pick them up with a fork or with their fingers.
Ingredients for the recipe
This recipe is very simple. You only need one pot to boil the water for cooking the pasta. Along with a handful of pantry ingredients, this dish literally takes minutes to make.
- Pesto sauce: Use your favorite prepared sauce, or homemade basil pesto sauce.
- Canned chickpeas
- Kale or other leafy greens
- Crushed red pepper
- Ricotta salata cheese (or substitute Parmesan or a soft pecorino cheese)
- Cascatelli pasta: Other pasta shapes with lines or ridges, such as rigatoni, penne, orecchiette would also work.
How to cook cascatelli
Because this shape is a little thicker and sturdier than other types of pasta, it takes a couple more minutes to cook then say, penne or ziti.
- The package directions suggests a cooking time of 13-17 minutes. I found that 13 minutes was the sweet spot on my stove, resulting in that perfect al dente bite. Test and taste to find what’s best for your taste.
Make the recipe:
- The key to making the pasta sauce is adding some of the hot pasta cooking water to pesto, right in your large serving bowl.
- Salt the cooking water generously until it tastes pleasantly salty. I suggest 2-3 tablespoons per 4 quarts of water. *Remember, the water becomes part of the sauce, so you want it to be seasoned well.
- You don’t have to cook the kale (or whatever greens you’re using) Put them in a colander and drain the pasta right over. The hot water will instantly “cook” them.
- Toss in the chickpeas, add to the serving bowl and toss it all together with the sauce.
- Top with cheese and serve it up!
Where to buy cascatelli
At the time I’m writing this, cascatelli is sold online, and just making its way into some grocery stores. Trader Joe’s is adding cascatelli to their pasta offerings, and there’s already a gluten-free version made with chickpea flour!
Cascatelli Pasta with Pesto and Chickpeas
- ½ pound (225 g) dried cascatelli pasta
- Kosher salt
- 4 ounces (125 g) basil pesto sauce
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
- ¼ cup grated ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a stockpot or large saucepan. Add 2-3 tablespoons kosher salt, until the water tastes pleasantly salty.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, 13-15 minutes. Scoop out and reserved ¾ cup of the cooking water and reserve.
- Put the kale in a a colander. Drain the pasta over the kale (this will quickly wilt it).
- Put the pesto and red pepper in a large serving bowl.
- Pour in the pasta cooking water a few tablespoons at a time and stir until it looks smooth and saucy.
- Transfer the pasta and kale to the serving bowl along with the chickpeas. Toss everything together with the sauce until the pasta is coated. Drizzle in more water if needed.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta and serve.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Salt the cooking water generously until it tastes pleasantly salty. I suggest 2-3 tablespoons per 4 quarts of water. The water becomes part of the sauce, so you want it to be seasoned well.
- You don’t have to cook the kale (or whatever greens you’re using). Put them in a colander and drain the pasta right over. The hot water will instantly “cook” them.
- Any leftovers keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator, although the pasta will absorb the sauce.