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Creamy Chickpea Cacio e Pepe Recipe With Caramelized Lemon

Creamy Chickpea Cacio e Pepe Recipe With Caramelized Lemon

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

Within the first couple of pages, Barghani 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,” Barghani says. “I want to remove any kind of fear.”

And the chef 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.”

Barghani’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,” Barghani 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 Barghani has sought out to do.

“You only get better as a cook if you practice and interact with the thing that you’re doing,” Barghani 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.”