Creamy Rigatoni with Crispy Chickpeas, Spinach, and Lemony Panko

published Sep 3, 2023
Creamy Rigatoni with Crispy Chickpeas, Spinach, and Lemony Panko Recipe

A combination of heavy cream and chicken broth creates a delicious foundation for spicy chili crisp, resulting in a layered, savory sauce — without being overly spicy.

Serves2 to 4

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Creamy rigatoni with crispy chickpea, spinach and lemony panko.
Credit: Photo: Haemi Lee; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Prop Styling: Gözde Eker

Chili crisp is often associated only with Asian dishes, like dumplings and noodles, but it’s also incredible with pasta dishes both as a finishing touch and as a sauce. A combination of heavy cream and chicken broth creates a delicious foundation for spicy chili crisp, resulting in a layered, savory sauce — without being overly spicy. Lightly crisped chickpeas and tender chicken thighs make the dish even more satisfying and hearty. The unsung hero of the dish is the bright lemon flavors in both the cream sauce and the crispy panko. I adore this weeknight-friendly pasta, and it’s perfect when I want something comforting that will also make me sweat from the spice.

Creamy Rigatoni with Crispy Chickpeas, Spinach, and Lemony Panko Recipe

A combination of heavy cream and chicken broth creates a delicious foundation for spicy chili crisp, resulting in a layered, savory sauce — without being overly spicy.

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons

    salted butter

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can

    chickpeas, rinsed and drained

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 medium

    yellow onion, sliced

  • 1 pound

    boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

  • 3 tablespoons

    chili crisp, plus more for serving

  • 1 cup

    chicken broth

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream (see Note)

  • 2

    lemons

  • 1 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 8 ounces

    dried rigatoni or any tubular pasta

  • 5 ounces

    baby spinach (see Note)

Instructions

  1. In a heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the drained chickpeas and season them with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Lightly fry the chickpeas until they start to caramelize and get slightly crispy around the edges with golden-brown spots, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chickpeas to a bowl.

  2. In the same pot, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until it’s translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken, season it with the remaining salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. There’s no need to thoroughly cook the chicken in this step because it will be cooked through in simmering broth later. Once the meat starts picking up some color, add the chili crisp and stir.

  3. Once the chicken and onion are fully coated with chili crisp, add the broth and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Zest both lemons and set the zest aside. Cut one lemon and squeeze one half directly over the pot while catching any seeds. Add half of the reserved cooked chickpeas to the pot. Let it simmer while stirring for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce starts to thicken slightly and the chicken is fully cooked. Slightly mash the chickpeas during this process to thicken the sauce.

  4. In a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the panko. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the panko starts to turn golden brown. Add the juice of the remaining 3 lemon halves. Keep stirring to cook off any moisture from the lemon juice, and turn off the heat when the panko gets crispy and golden brown. Stir in the reserved lemon zest and set aside.

  5. In a separate pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions, but 3 minutes short of the cooking time, then transfer the al dente pasta to the pot with the simmering sauce to finish cooking. Constantly stir the pasta until thick. Season with more salt if necessary.

  6. Turn off the heat and add the spinach and the remaining chickpeas to the pot. Keep stirring until the spinach is wilted.

  7. Serve immediately with generous sprinkles of lemony panko and an extra drizzle of chili crisp.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: You can substitute heavy cream with regular milk or even plant-based milk. Instead of spinach, any hearty greens, such as chards, kale, or bok choy, would be great in this recipe.

From Chili Crisp: 50+ Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy, Crunchy, Garlicky Cravings by James Park, © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs © Heami Lee.