1 pound whole wheat pasta. For this dish, I used a short, twirly, tubular cut called gobetti. Other cuts work, too.
Kosher salt for pasta
1-2 heads “green” (i.e., uncured) garlic
3 spring onions
Extra-virgin olive oil, for sauteing and also for dressing the finished pasta
1/2 to 1 teaspoon “radical salsa,” or a pinch or two of crushed red chili pepper
3 small heads of fennel, with fronds
1 pound snap peas
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained (canned are fine)
1 generous bunch parsley
About a cup of freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese, plus a chunk for grating at table
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Peas, parsley, veggies
Place a large cast-iron skillet over low heat, and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Peel and mince the green garlic. Separate the green and white parts of the spring onions. Mince the white part; reserve some or all of the green part for garnish. And the chopped onion whites and garlic to the pan and stir; add the radical salsa or chili flakes, and a pinch of salt. Stir again.
While that mixture is gently sauteing — be careful that it doesn’t burn by giving it an occasional stir — prep the fennel. For each bulb, trim away the stalks and the root end (reserve some of the green tops, known as fronds, for garnish). Peel and discard tough outer layer. Cut bulb length-wise, and then cut cross-wise into thin slices. Add to the skillet along with another pinch of salt; turn heat to medium, stirring often to keep fennel from scorching.
While the fennel is sauteing, prepare pasta using the great food-science writer Harold McGee’s radical, low-water, fast method (which generates a valuable pasta pot liquor that you’ll be adding to the skillet later).
Add the chickpeas to the pan, turn heat to low, and let saute a bit with the fennel mixture. Meanwhile, prep the snap peas. Snap off stem ends of each one; then very coarsely chop them into bite-sized pieces. By now, the fennel should be soft. Return heat under the pan to medium and add the snap peas along with another pinch of salt and saute, stirring. You want them to retain their crunch, but pick up the flavor of the aromatic veggies already in the pan. This will only take a couple of minutes.
Pasta in bowl
When the snap peas are done, dump the contents of the skillet into a large bowl.
Chop the parsley together with the onion tops and and fronds from several inches of fennel top. Add to the bowl. Now your pasta should be almost ready. Before straining it into a colander, use a metal ladle to grab a half-cup or so of the pasta water and add that to the bowl, too. Strain pasta and dump into the bowl. Now add grated cheese, a generous lashing of olive oil, and a good grind of black pepper. Gently fold to mix. Taste and see if it needs salt; add more if so.
Serve immediately, passing a chunk of hard cheese and a grater at table. Serves 6.