Orecchiette with Chickpeas and Spinach

I made this recently and found it to be a satisfying winter pasta dish. Chickpeas are my favorite legume. Up until this past year I have used canned beans, but now I use a slow cooker to prepare dried beans because it is easy, economical, and produces a more creamy bean. I used The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone as a guide for cooking beans. I make two cups of dried beans at a time. I have read that some dried beans contain toxins, so to deal with this I bring the beans to a boil in 4 cups of water and let simmer on the stove for 10 minutes. Then I rinse the beans and place them in a slow cooker with 6-7 cups of water and 2 fresh bay leaves. Turn on low and cook for 5-6 hours or until the beans are tender. Turn the slow cooker off, add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and let sit 30 minutes until beans are cool enough to remove from pot comfortably. I store the beans in some of their cooking liquid in freezer bags or put them in a mason jar with some cooking liquid in the refrigerator for a few days and use them as I need them for this pasta recipe, hummus, or a couscous dish.

Orecchiette with Chickpeas and Spinach
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 c. tomato purée
2 c. cooked chickpeas (1 c. puréed, 1 c. whole)
2 c. chicken stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano or more
1 fresh bay leaf
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 (5 oz.) pkg. baby spinach, rinsed
1 lb. orecchiette pasta

Heat olive oil in a 5 quart stockpot, then add onions and sauté 7 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes until soft but not brown. Add tomato purée, chickpea purée, chicken stock, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15-20 minutes to allow favors to blend and sauce to somewhat reduce. Add whole chickpeas and spinach. Cover and simmer until spinach is tender, about 7-10 minutes. Cook the pasta separately, saving pasta water to thin pasta sauce. Remove bay leaf and thyme from chickpea sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add pasta along with 1 1/2 c. pasta cooking water. I like it on the soupy side; use less water if you want it thicker. Serves 5.

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