Orzo with Italian sausage, curried chickpeas and kale

Orzo pasta, with spiced chickpeas or chana masala, Italian chicken sausage and kale. 

If we were to eat this in the traditional Indian way, as we eat in our homes, it would be channa (or chhole) masala and rice. I nostalgically call it channa curry, which I grew up eating in India, one of my mom’s best curries. In this recipe, the chickpeas are not floating in a curry, but are more on the dry side, definitely loaded with the customary spices and masalas, and plenty of tomatoes, onions, ginger and garlic. The souring agent is tamarind. And the accompaniment is not rice, but orzo, which is pasta shaped like rice.

I cooked the chickpeas or channas separately, and then tossed it all together along with the sausage, pasta and kale. I always follow the traditional routes regarding the dried chickpeas – soaking them in water, overnight, with a pinch of baking soda. This softens the chickpeas and when cooked, they literally are melt-in-the-mouth consistency. And the secondly, cooking them in a pressure cooker. But, if you don’t have dried chickpeas, or are short on time, use the canned variety.

I used minced chicken sausage, Italian, because it has a nice and subtle flavourings of fennel and spices, which compliments the kale and the chickpeas. The orzo seemed like a perfect substitute to rice 👍🏻

This is also a great and yummy dish to whip up, if one has leftover channa masala. It is a filling one, and a wonderful dish to serve as an entree when entertaining. It’s versatile, and if one is vegetarian or vegan, leave out the sausage and throw in some diced potatoes instead. I‘ve made that too and it tastes equally delicious.

Servings 4-6

Ingredients :

Orzo pasta – 1/2 lb

Italian chicken sausage links – 3

Dried chickpeas – 1 cup

A handful of fresh kale, chopped

2-3 tomatoes, puréed

1 onion, chopped

Whole spices – 1 bay leaf, 1 black cardamom, 2-3 green cardamoms, 1 inch cinnamon stick, few black peppercorns, 2 cloves.

Paprika – 1 tsp.

Cumin seeds – 3/4 tsp.

Garam masala powder – 3/4 tsp.

Coriander powder – 2 tsp.

Tamarind pulp – 1 tsp.

Cumin powder – 3/4 tsp.

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp.

Salt, to taste

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

4-5 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced

Minced jalapeños or green chilli, as desired

Olive oil or any cooking oil of your choice. Ghee, is also good to use.

For the dried chickpeas – Wash and soak the chickpeas in water, overnight, with a pinch of baking soda. Wash well and drain the water.

Heat oil or ghee in a pressure cooker. Add all the dried whole spices and bay leaf. Add the onions and sauté on medium high heat till the onions start turning light brown. Add the green chillies and ginger and garlic. Add cumin seeds. Lower the heat, so as not to burn the spices, add all the remaining ground spices. Add a little water to bring the spice or masala mixture together. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the tamarind pulp. Simmer on low for 8-10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and mix well. Add about a cup of water and salt. Mix well. Pressure cook on high for 2 whistles. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. The chickpeas or channas will be very tender and cooked. Set aside.

Remove chicken sausage from casings and fry them, continuously stir and break them apart, till cooked. Add the kale and stir fry for a few minutes.

Cook orzo pasta till al dente, do not over cook, it should have a bite to it.

Toss the orzo, sausage, kale and chickpeas and combine well. Bring it all together in a large serving platter or bowl. Serve.


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