What would happen to Italian pasta e ceci if, instead of using tomato paste, you used miso? In this weeknight-ready Big Little Recipe, I riffed on Victoria Granof’s Genius Pasta e Ceci. Just like with tomato paste, stir-frying miso in a slick of oil dials up its umami, and adds a roasty-toasty flavor to the broth. My go-to brand is Miso Master, but any subtle white or yellow miso will work. And instead of flavoring the soup itself with garlic, then spicing it with chile flakes, I reach for one of my favorite condiments that does both: Lao Gan Ma’s Spicy Chili Crisp. Its kicky, oniony flavor adds some needed bite to creamy, salt-loving legumes, and the garlicky oil adds heft to an otherwise thin broth. Instead of ditalini, you can use small elbows, or another similar-sized shape. Just adjust the cook time accordingly and remember to cook it less than you normally would—as the hot soup sits, the pasta will continue to cook, and you don’t want it to become mushy. You’ll note that I don’t call for any salt here; the white miso and chili crisp add plenty of seasoning. If you want, you can stir in a hearty green, like kale, or even a frozen vegetable, like peas. But my favorite move is to serve a pared-down salad alongside, along with an extra-cold beer or glass of white wine. —Emma Laperruque
2 1/2 cups
(15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
chili crisp (such as Lao Gan Ma or Fly By Jing), with oil, adjusted to taste
Add the oil and miso to a large saucepan or small soup pot. Set on the stove over medium to medium-low heat and stir-fry for 4 to 5 minutes, lowering the heat if the miso is threatening to burn, until the miso is very fragrant and a toasty, chestnutty brown. Carefully pour off the oil into a small heatproof bowl (you don’t need to obsess over every last drop, just try to get most of it); discard this later on, whenever it’s cool. Set the pan back on the stove and add about half the water, stirring until the miso is incorporated and all the bits on the bottom are scraped up. Add the rest of the water, as well as the chickpeas and pasta. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the pasta is super-duper al dente (remember, it will continue to cook as it hangs out in the hot soup). Divide into two soup bowls and top with however much chili crisp you want.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.