A perfectly cooked orecchiette pasta blended with savory garlic, lemon, chickpeas, spinach, and zaatar with a touch of curry. Trust me, out of this world.

All those ingredients marry well, and each bite is infused with flavor. Irresistible is more like it.

Orecchiette pasta with chickpeas and zaatar

In this Article

The recipe

I saw you looking at the recipe and shrugging your shoulders at the length of the ingredients. Do not fear. This is a recipe that will soon become your favorite as it did in our house.

Subscribe to Giangi's Kitchen!

Get my FREE email series: 5 Days of Easy Elevated Recipes plus a weekly newsletter!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

However, I advise you to have all the ingredients ready, measured and chopped before you turn on the stove. This recipe only takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Before going any further, I want to go over a couple of ingredients that if you do not use in your kitchen regularly, they may prevent you from enjoying this wonderful dish.

What is Zaatar?

Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice blend of dried wild thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac.

What does zaatar taste like? 

With the combination of the dried herbs, you will have a rich nutty floral, herby and tangy taste with a bit of acidic keynote. Zaatar does not have any heat to it.

Zaatar spice substitute

For a quick at-home substitute of zaatar, just add dried thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, or lemon zest if you do not have sumac on hand.

Mix together two tablespoons of sesame seeds, one tablespoon of dried thyme, and two tablespoons of sumac or the lemon zest of one lemon.

You can also use dried herbs such as oregano or parsley.

orecchiette with Chickpeas and Zaatar

Orecchiette Pasta

Orecchiette pasta, or “little ears” pasta, is a specialty of Southern Italy, Apulia. A preferred pasta to be enjoyed with sauces as the concave side is the perfect “sauce collector.”

Orecchiette is round in shape, gently pressed with a thumb in the middle to make a small shell form.

With each bite, you will enjoy not only the spinach but the fresh herbs, parsley,

Ideally, for all tomato sauces, and it works well with vegetables, too.

What is a good substitute for orecchiette pasta?

Any shaped pasta, such as fusilli, farfalle, or penne, will be a good substitute. You want pasta that will collect the sauce.

Orecchiette With Chickpeas And Zaatar

Anchovies fillets

Here is where I lose a lot of you, but before you do so, hear me out. You will not look or taste the anchovies.

With this recipe, once you start cooking, they will disappear, leaving behind a great salty flavor that balances well with the chickpeas.

The anchovies, which are small Mediterranean fish, come flat or rolled in cans or jars. Gutted before being cured in salt and packed in olive oil.

Anchovies are excellent for your health, with many vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium.

Always buy them in a glass jar; they store better. Whatever you are not using will be tossed as it is hard to store or save the one in a metal tin.

Anchovies substitute

A great substitute for anchovies is Worcestershire sauce, which, for you to know, also contains anchovies.

Fish sauce, shrimp paste sardines, soy sauce, miso capers, and kalamata olives.

orecchiette pasta with chickpeas and zaatar


Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are pantry staples at my house.

I used the one in the can for this recipe. Rinse them before using them to remove any juice from the can. Soft and tender, and once toasted, they get a wonderful nutty flavor.

A pasta dish with chickpeas is rich and full of flavor.

Chickpeas marry well with pasta; another use for another time is pasta e Ceci

Tips and Step By Steps Instructions

  • Have all the ingredients ready before starting cooking, as this recipe will go rather fast once you start.
  • Start making the sauce while you are bringing the salted pasta water to a boil.
  • Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s requirements. However, cook them al dente, meaning drain them one minute before they are ready. Al dente or to the bite. The pasta will spend another minute with the sauce, and you do not want the orecchiette to be overcooked.
  • Use a large skillet that will hold both the sauce and, of course, the pasta.
  • Hold a cup of the salted pasta water just in case you may need to add it to the chickpea skillet.
  • Drain the chickpeas and remove any empty shells if any are found.
  • The spinach starts welting as soon as it hits the heat source. Stir them well so as not to burn to the skillet bottom.
  • Add the pasta and turn to well blend the pasta with the zaatar and spinach.
Orecchiette With Chickpeas And Zaatar

This zaatar pasta recipe is an inspiration by chef Yotam Ottolenghi. If you are unfamiliar with him, please do so; you will not regret it.

Ottolenghi’s cooking reflects Jewish, Italian, and German heritage via his spice and ingredient selection.

The play with flavors leaves me mesmerized, and I am returning to try more recipes.

I use my favorite Le Creuset Braiser.

It presents beautifully at the table if you so choose. Great also for pot luck. Your food will cook evenly, which is a must in your kitchen.

The enamel cast iron braiser is the perfect heat inducer because of the enamel, and you can prepare beautiful sauces in it.

The original recipe required cumin. Somehow, my brain decided that it was curry. I read, as usual, the recipe three times, and each time, I read curry.

While sitting at my desk translating it from French to English, I realized I was supposed to use cumin. Mind you, cumin and curry are written exactly the same in French and English.

Have some fun with this recipe, and you may want to substitute the spinach with some broccoli rabe.

Add some sun-dried tomato to the below recipe.

Or why not add some heat and add some red pepper flakes?

Orecchiette With Chickpeas And Zaatar

5 from 19 votes
orecchiette with Chickpeas and Zaatar
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
A perfectly cooked orecchiette pasta blended with savory garlic, lemon, chickpeas, spinach, and zaatar with a touch of curry.  Trust me, out of this world.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, 2 minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 7 anchovies fillets
  • 1 lemon, zested and half juiced
  • 28 ounces chickpeas,
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 ounces fresh spinach
  • ½ pound orecchiette pasta,
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoon zaatar,
  • salt
  • pepper


  • In a large skillet heat olive oil over a hot heat. Sautee the onion for 3-4 minutes with the garlic, curry, thyme, anchovies, lemon zest, and ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper. Stir constantly until tender and golden.
  • Lower the heat and add the chickpeas, and the brown sugar, and let cook until golden, about 8 minutes.
  • When the chickpeas start to dry, wet with the chicken broth et the lemon juice. Cook and reduce for about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water add the pasta and cook al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • In the chickpea, skillet adds the spinach and parsley and mix well. The spinach should be welting. If that is not the case, turn on the heat to low and give it a couple of stirs. Add the orecchiette and mix well to coat all the pasta. 
  • Serve on four plates or bowls, sprinkle the zataar over it, and drizzle a little bit of olive oil.


Calories: 683kcal | Carbohydrates: 106g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 257mg | Potassium: 955mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 3235IU | Vitamin C: 37.9mg | Calcium: 178mg | Iron: 8.6mg

Giangi’s Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.

Did you make this?

Leave a comment below and tag @giangiskitchen on Instagram

Orecchiette With Chickpeas And Zaatar

Visit my Amazon Storefront for my selection of favorite kitchen essentials. I only recommend equipment that I use and love.

Giangi's Kitchen Amazon Storefront

Please read my privacy policy for more info. I only recommend the products that I actually love and use. This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost.

This recipe was originally published on October 27, 2019.