Creamy Rigatoni with Crispy Chickpeas, Spinach and Lemony Panko

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This vegetarian pasta dish is equal parts savory, spicy and bright, thanks to chili crisp.
creamy rigatoni with crispy chickpeas, spinach and lemony panko: bowl of chili crisp rigatoni with crispy chickpeas, spinach and lemony panko in a bowl
Heami Lee/Chili Crisp

You may reserve your beloved jar of chili crisp for dumplings, but there are endless uses for the savory, spicy condiment. Options range from eggs and pizza to fried chicken and vanilla ice cream, but this recipe for creamy rigatoni with crispy chickpeas, spinach and lemony pesto from the new cookbook, Chili Crisp: 50+ Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy, Crunchy, Garlicky Cravings by James Park, will make you want to drizzle the stuff on every pasta you ever make.

“A combination of heavy cream and chicken broth creates a delicious foundation for spicy chili crisp, resulting in a layered, savory sauce,” writes Park. “Lightly crisped chickpeas and tender chicken thighs make the dish even more satisfying and hearty. The unsung hero is the bright lemon flavors in both the cream sauce and the crispy panko.”

Feel free to substitute heavy cream with regular or plant-based milk if you’d prefer a less decadent texture. On that note, any hearty greens—such as chards, kale or bok choy—would be fine swaps for spinach.

Chili Crisp: 50+ Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy, Crunchy, Garlicky Cravings by James Park © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs by Heami Lee.


3 tablespoons salted butter, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

3 tablespoons chili crisp, plus more for serving

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

2 lemons

1 cup panko

8 ounces rigatoni or any tubular pasta

5 ounces baby spinach


1. In a heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the drained chickpeas and season them with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Lightly fry the chickpeas until they start to caramelize and get slightly crispy around the edges with golden-brown spots, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chickpeas to a bowl.

2. In the same pot, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until it’s translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken, season it with the remaining salt and pepper and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. (There’s no need to thoroughly cook the chicken in this step because it will be cooked in simmering broth later.) Once the meat starts picking up some color, add the chili crisp and stir.

3. Once the chicken and onion are fully coated with chili crisp, add the broth and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Zest both lemons and set the zest aside. Cut one lemon and squeeze one half directly over the pot while catching any seeds. Add half of the reserved cooked chickpeas to the pot. Let it simmer while stirring for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce starts to thicken slightly and the chicken is fully cooked. Slightly mash the chickpeas during this process to thicken the sauce.

4. In a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the panko. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the panko starts to turn golden brown. Add the juice of the remaining three lemon halves. Keep stirring to cook off any moisture from the lemon juice and turn off the heat when the panko gets crispy and golden brown. Stir in the reserved lemon zest and set aside.

5. In a separate pot, cook the pasta according to pack­age instructions, but 3 minutes short of the cooking time, then transfer the al dente pasta to the pot with the simmer­ing sauce to finish cooking it. Constantly stir the pasta until thick. Season with more salt if necessary.

6. Turn off the heat and add the spinach and the remaining chickpeas to the pot. Keep stirring until the spinach is wilted.

7. Serve immediately with generous sprinkles of lemony panko and an extra drizzle of chili crisp.

Nutrition Facts
  • 1,094 calories

  • 64g fat

  • 91g carbs

  • 40g protein

  • 11g sugars

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Note: The information shown is Edamam's estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.

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