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First off: This is not a recipe for spaghetti, as in noodles. It’s essentially all I love to mix with into dish of pasta — sans pasta.

My grandma would make the spaghetti sauce from scratch with ground beef, and it was so hearty and satisfying. College and post-college days usually called for a simpler version with canned sauce, and sometimes, I’d find myself eating three to four bowls of pasta a week.

Over the years, I’d modify my recipe, adding fresh garlic and chopped tomatoes, or sometimes I’d steam broccoli and toss that in the mix.

When I discovered an intolerance to gluten, I switched my noodles to a gluten-free variety. While these were better on my stomach, I’m still aware that they are a processed food (some more than others — try Tinkyada for a nice, brown-rice pasta that doesn’t come out mushy). And as I’ve been cutting back on all grains, I’ve found that an Italian-cuisine-inspired veggie stir-fry can be just as pleasurable without the noodles.

This is one of my go-to meals for busy weeknights, or anytime I’m low on groceries:

Deconstructed Vegetable “Spaghetti”

deconstructed spaghetti

Makes 1 serving

2–3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1–2 tsp. for chickpeas
1 can chickpeas, rinsed (you’ll roast them all and use 1/2 cup or so)
Sea salt
1–2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
4–6 leaves green kale
1 large tomato or one large handful cherry tomatoes, diced
Fresh basil, if available/desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Toss the rinsed chickpeas with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Place in a baking pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, keeping a close watch — you’ll want them to appear golden brown. Set chickpeas aside when finished cooking.

In a large sauté pan, heat remaining olive oil on medium-low heat. Add diced garlic and cook just until it starts turning brown. Add kale (if fresh, allow more time for it to cook — it’ll shrink slightly and turn bright green; if you steamed kale in advance, shorten cooking time and add next ingredients sooner). Stir kale frequently as it cooks, then add diced tomatoes and chickpeas.

Top with fresh basil, sea salt, and pepper.

To make this dish heartier: You can always add cooked chicken breast if you’re looking for more protein (or try a spicy ground chicken or turkey by adding red pepper flakes). The consistency of the chickpeas acts like a nice substitute for noodles, so I usually only add more kale. If I’m really hungry, I’ll toss the above ingredients with 1/2 steamed spaghetti squashTo steam, place the squash cut-side down in about 1 inch of water in a glass casserole dish or deep baking tray. Place in a 375- or 400-degree oven for 25–30 minutes (or until soft), or about 10 to 15 minutes before you start cooking the chickpeas.


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