Neil Perry’s Penne with chickpeas and chilli

It’s always good to have a few vegetarian pasta dishes up your sleeve. I love the texture of the chickpeas with the tomato. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, which are full of flavour at this time of year, simply chop, de-seed and simmer for an extra five minutes.

I use spicy Mexican salsa macha paste (which you can order online from Fireworks Foods) in just about any recipe where I’d use chilli. It brings a deep-roasted flavour and heat to the dish.
I grate parmesan or pecorino over this as well as the breadcrumbs, but that’s up to you!

Penne with chickpeas and chilli.Credit:William Meppem. Styling by Hannah Meppem


  • 4 tbsp sourdough breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 400g dried penne

For the sauce

  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp salsa macha chilli paste
  • 300g tinned chickpeas
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. To make the toasted breadcrumbs, heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Drizzle the crumbs with the 2 tablespoons of oil and a sprinkle of salt, spread them on a tray and bake in the oven until golden brown.

2. Remove from the oven and place on a plate with kitchen paper to absorb the leftover oil. When cool, mix the parsley and toasted breadcrumbs together.

3. To make the tomato sauce, heat the 3-4 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onion and chilli paste for about 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Add chickpeas, tomato and salt, and stir. Leave the sauce to simmer for 10–15 minutes, until it has thickened slightly.

4. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the penne and cook for about one minute less than the manufacturer’s packet instructions. Drain the pasta and fold through the sauce.

5. Spoon the pasta and sauce into four bowls. Drizzle with the extra olive oil, give a good grind of fresh pepper, and sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumb mixture.

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