A decade ago, my friend Alison posted some recipes online, and several times since then she’d mentioned her Chickicheesinara Sauce for spaghetti . . . but for some reason, I never got around to trying it until just a few weeks ago! Not only did my whole family like it, but also I noticed something important about it: The consistency is very similar to meat sauce. If you are accustomed to putting ground meat in spaghetti sauce, but now you’re fasting from meat for Lent or overall trying to eat less meat or just looking for a change of pace, this recipe is for you!
If you’re like me and never liked meat sauce even when you ate meat, this recipe is for you, too! It’s much heartier than plain marinara sauce, with more protein, iron, and fiber. Just puree the garbanzo beans to a really smooth consistency so they don’t remind you of meat as much.
Alison’s original recipe is titled Chick-Cheesinara Spaghetti Sauce, but I’ve heard her pronounce it with an extra vowel instead of the hyphen, and I really like the sound of it (so does my five-year-old; I think the name was the main thing that got him enthusiastic about helping to make it and eating it!) so I’m spelling it Chickicheesinara. I’m also writing the recipe in my own words to reflect my approach to cooking it (and also because I really like the word “garbanzo”).
To make enough Chickicheesinara Sauce for 4 main-dish servings of spaghetti, you will need:
- 1 jar of marinara sauce (purchased or homemade)
- 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (a/k/a chick-peas)–about half to two-thirds of a can
- about 1/4 pound of cheese
As Alison says, “Don’t get too carried away with the cheddar cheese–it doesn’t really mix perfectly with the sauce, and it kind of sticks to everything it touches. I have since discovered the miracle of cream cheese as a sauce additive–it’s a little less fatty than the hard cheeses like cheddar or monterey jack, and (probably partly because of that fact) it mixes in smooth and creamy. Don’t tell people you put cream cheese in their spaghetti sauce–it’ll weird them out.” I made one batch with ricotta cheese, which mixes in pretty well but retains its own grainy texture; it tasted like mixed-together lasagna, which is to say very good . . . but the cream cheese was yummier!
Start heating the sauce in a saucepan. Also cook your spaghetti at this time.
Meanwhile, mash the garbanzos to desired consistency. If you adore garbanzos, you’ll want to leave some of them whole. If you’re imitating meat sauce, mash them into pretty big chunks and remove loose bean-skins. If you’re like me and only like garbanzos in things (like hummus), use a blender or food processor to make a smooth puree. [UPDATE: Turns out I do like whole garbanzos if they’re in this yummy one-pot meal!)
Add the garbanzos to the sauce. If using cheddar or another hard cheese, dice or grate it.
When sauce is beginning to bubble, stir in the cheese. Keep stirring until it melts. Remove from heat and serve immediately over pasta.
This is a great recipe for using up garbanzos, cheese, or marinara sauce left over from another meal. See Alison’s recipe for other ideas for dressing up marinara sauce. I’m a big fan of kale myself–especially cooked in olive oil with plenty of garlic in the bottom of the saucepan before adding the sauce–yum!