Make This Creamy Chickpea Cacio e Pepe with Caramelized Lemon

Andy Baraghani's new cookbook explores self-identity, hands-on cooking, and Persian ingredients.

Andy Barghani
Chickpea Cacio e Pepe with Caramelized Lemon | Photo courtesy of Mona Creative
Chickpea Cacio e Pepe with Caramelized Lemon | Photo courtesy of Mona Creative

Andy Baraghani is direct, welcoming, and eloquent—and his new book, The Cook You Want to Be, is no different.

Within the first couple of pages, Baraghani goes from telling his story of working multiple restaurant jobs in his teenage years while discovering his identity as a gay, Iranian man, to listing off the cooking rules he lives by and believes everyone else should adopt as well.

Among his ten rules (which are more like commandments), “lose the gadgets” may be the most divisive.

“Consumers are told that [gadgets] make your life in the kitchen easier, but I think it ends up creating these barriers and clouds your judgment in the kitchen,” Baraghani says. “I want to remove any kind of fear.”

And the recipe developer practices what he preaches—many might be shocked to hear he abstains from using a garlic press and instant pot and rarely uses measuring cups or spoons. He believes in the “less is more” approach and is a fervent advocate of using his hands so he can better focus on and connect with what is in front of him.

The recipes in his book will encourage the reader to “get in there,” whether that means using your hands to rid your herbs of dirt in his Kuku Sabzi or relishing in the freshly grated coconut shavings that linger on your fingers while making his Coconut and Fresh Chile Crisp.

“There’s this transformation that happens when you combine a set of ingredients,” he says. “And when you put a little bit of thought and time into it, something beautiful and delicious can happen.”

Baraghani's book is brimming with flavors reflective of his background. Many of his recipes incorporate popular Persian ingredients into classic dishes. “It was the first food I was given,” he says. “Those dishes, tangy, acidic, yogurt-filled, intensely herby, floral flavors, they dominated the kind of dishes I had growing up. I would say it is very much a part of my cooking style, bringing in those flavors.” He adds with a laugh: “I take rice very seriously.”

All of the vibrant and innovative recipes, however, are tied together with an essence of comfort and warmth, and his Chickpea Cacio e Pepe with Caramelized Lemon is perhaps the perfect example.

“I like that the chickpeas act as a creamy texture to the dish, that the flavors are familiar in the sense that you have the cheese and the pepper,” Baraghani says. “But then you have these caramelized pieces of lemon, and they act as these jammy, punchy disruptions. It keeps your mouth excited.”

The recipe is essentially the love child of two classic dishes—pasta e ceci, a brothy, chickpea stew, and cacio e pepe. It’s a dish that somehow checks all the boxes, with a short ingredients list, easy-to-follow instructions, minimal equipment, and a comforting result. In a sense, it embodies precisely what Baraghani has sought out to do.

“You only get better as a cook if you practice and interact with the thing that you’re doing,” Baraghani says. “An important goal for me, for the reader, is to be more open in the kitchen, be more open when you’re out in the world, be open to failures, and be optimistic.”

Chickpea Cacio e Pepe with Caramelized Lemon Recipe

Yield: Serves 4

•Kosher salt
•¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
•1 small Meyer or regular lemon, thinly sliced, seeds picked out
•1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
•1 large shallot, finely chopped
•1 rosemary sprig, or 4 thyme sprigs
•Freshly ground pepper
•1 pound tubular pasta (such as calamarata, paccheri, or rigatoni)
•¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
•½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then throw in a handful of salt (about ¼ cup).
2. While the water is doing its thing, set a separate large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the lemon and cook, using tongs to flip the slices until they begin to lightly brown and shrivel up, 6-8 minutes. Using the tongs, transfer the caramelized lemon slices to a bowl, leaving the oil in the pot.
3. Dump the chickpeas into the oil and let them get a little crisp and golden, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes. Add the shallot and crush the rosemary to release its oil and drop it into the pot. Season with salt and lots and lots of pepper and give everything a stir. Cook until the shallot is beginning to soften, 3-5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until almost al dente, about 2 minutes less than what the package suggests (it’ll finish cooking in the sauce).
5. Just before the pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups of pasta water. Add 1½ cups of pasta water to the pot with the chickpeas and bring to a simmer, still over medium heat. (This may seem like a lot of liquid, but it will thicken once the remaining ingredients are added.) One piece at a time, stir in the butter until the pasta water and butter have become one.
6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the sauce. Cook, stirring often and sprinkling in the Parmesan a little at a time. (Don’t add the cheese all at once, as that can make the sauce split and turn grainy.) Keep stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta, about 3 minutes. If the sauce looks too thick, add more pasta water, 1- 2 tablespoons at a time to thin (but know that saucier is ideal because it will thicken as it cools). Turn off the heat and fold in the caramelized lemon. Sprinkle with an almost ridiculous amount of pepper and more Parmesan before serving.

Reprinted from The Cook You Want To Be. Copyright © 2022 Andy Baraghani Photographs copyright © 2022 Graydon Herriott. Published by Lorena Jones, an imprint of Random House.

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Kelsey Allen is an editorial assistant at Thrillist. Her love for food was influenced by her mother and her Tata.