What if macaroni and cheese weren’t made with macaroni, but a can of chickpeas instead? This Big Little Recipe just happens to be gluten-free and comes together in the blink of an eye.
The method is inspired by Melissa Clark’s Genius Stovetop Mac & Cheese, in which you heat heavy cream, stir in grated cheddar, and call it a day. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this two-ingredient cheese sauce is a dream anywhere and everywhere—try it spooned over roasted onions or steamed broccoli next.
To add crunch to an otherwise soft, saucy situation, I like chopping up a handful of chickpeas, throwing these into sizzling oil, and letting them crisp. Within a few minutes, they turn into a crackly topping as delightful as panko or potato chips.
If you want to be a rebel, you can swap in another canned bean you love. I bet pintos would be awesome. Let me know about any off-road adventures in the comments below. —Emma Laperruque
(15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and dried
Neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
cheddar, grated (preferably a younger, not super-aged variety)
Separate out 1/4 cup of chickpeas and roughly chop. Heat a glug of oil in a skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the chopped chickpeas, plus a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir so all the beans are coated, then leave them alone and let them crisp for about 5 minutes, until frizzled and browned.
Add the cream to a pot over medium heat and cook until it begins to simmer. Drop the heat to low and add the cheese, stirring until a smooth sauce forms. Mix in the larger portion of chickpeas and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide into 2 bowls and evenly top with the chickpea crispies.
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.