Kitchn Love Letters

The Cheap & Easy Smitten Kitchen Recipe I’ve Made More than a Dozen Times

updated Jul 16, 2019
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Credit: Marie Telling

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. This week, our Kitchn love letter comes from France-based journalist Marie Telling, who is sharing her favorite easy and cheap weeknight dinner recipe.

I have two types of recipes in my arsenal. The first ones are quick and easy go-tos that I rely on for weeknight dinners. They rarely blow my mind, but they’re dependable, satisfying, and keep me from spending my paycheck on takeout.

The second ones are weekend undertakings — family specialties, time-consuming recipes from beloved cookbooks, baking projects. These aren’t so much about feeding myself as they are about treating myself. And while the process can be quite involved, every step is worth it once I taste the first spoonful of my grandmother’s chickpea and cilantro soup, or bite into a salted caramel cream puff.

Rare are the recipes that combine the convenience of the first category with the soul-satisfying flavors of the second, but I’ve found one that does: Smitten Kitchen’s pasta e ceci

Credit: Marie Telling

The 5-Ingredient Pantry Meal I Keep Coming Back To

Pasta e ceci (literally pasta and chickpeas) is a traditional Roman recipe. It’s a simple dish: pasta and chickpeas cooked in a tomato broth (water and tomato paste spiced up with garlic and red pepper flakes), and topped with a rosemary and garlic-infused oil. It takes very few ingredients to make (most of which you probably already have in your pantry), and even fewer steps, and yet the result is packed with so much flavor that each mouthful feels like a trip to Italy.

Credit: Marie Telling

The whole recipe takes only 30 minutes from start to finish — not a guesstimated 30 minutes, but an actual eye-on-the-clock half-hour. There’s barely any knife work involved — you only have to chop a couple of garlic cloves and some rosemary — and it requires very little equipment (one pot, one small pan for the finishing oil, a chopping board, a knife, and a wooden spoon), so you can make it even in the most poorly supplied kitchen. Oh, and it’s vegan, but you won’t even notice it is until one day you have to feed a vegan and realize that this is, of course, the very best thing to make. 

I’ve made this recipe for dates, roommates, and family members, for vegans and carnivores, in the middle of the winter and during a summer heatwave. I’ve forgotten the red pepper flakes once or twice, burned the garlic, blindly played around with the measurements (pro tip: double the quantities if you’re making this for more than one person), but no matter how hard I try to mess it up, this dish always comes out delicious. I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t love it. 

Credit: Marie Telling

I’ve recently moved back to France after several years in the U.S. and decided to make the recipe for my mother. I couldn’t find fresh rosemary at the local store, or the right type of pasta (ditalini was my go-to in the U.S.), so I made it with larger pasta and dried rosemary instead, and it was still a hit! My mother marveled at the depth of flavors and immediately asked me for the recipe. That’s because pasta e ceci is a true gift from the Italian gods and proof that convenience and pleasure don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So do yourself a favor: Make this your next weeknight dinner and thank me later.  

We want to know: What’s your favorite cheap and easy dinner? Tell us in the comments below.