This one pot vegetarian dinner is delicious, satisfying, and easy to make. It's bursting with flavor too—thanks to the red onion, tomatoes, herbs, feta, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Lately, this meal has been our favorite way to eat protein-rich chickpeas. The bright flavors of this cozy casserole hits the spot when we're craving comfort food but also want to eat healthy!
You can serve this chickpea tomato casserole with a side of bread or bread for dipping; spoon it over cooked rice or other grains; or eat it just on its own! This recipe makes for yummy leftovers too— it reheats nicely in the oven or microwave.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are not only great sources of protein, but they're also extremely versatile and inexpensive. For this recipe, you'll need cooked chickpeas—you can either use canned chickpeas or home cooked. See here for some of the health benefits of chickpeas.
- Red onions: This dish has a lot of big flavors going on, so red onions work best here. You could substitute with yellow onions in a pinch.
- Passata (strained tomatoes): Passata is typically sold in tall glass jars with a screw top lid. It's made from strained uncooked tomatoes. If you can't find any, you can use crushed tomatoes in a can instead. Don't use tomato paste or tomato sauce, since both of these are already cooked and won't have the same flavor or consistency.
- Spinach: We usually toss in few handfuls of boxed baby spinach at the end, for some greens. You could substitute the baby spinach with thinly sliced kale instead.
- Feta cheese: The crumbled feta adds a creamy, salty tang. The whole dish gets quickly broiled so that the feta gets golden brown. If you want to keep this dish vegan, you can leave out the feta or use vegan feta instead.
How to make
This dish comes together in a single pot, first on the stove and then finished in the oven. Here's how to make it:
- Saute the aromatics: Cook olive oil, onion, and garlic together in a Dutch oven or skillet until fragrant and golden brown.
- Combine and simmer: Add passata, vegetable broth, and dried herbs. Simmer for the flavors to develop.
- Add chickpeas: Stir in the chickpeas and cook until the mixture is reduced by one-third, so that the sauce is very flavorful and the chickpeas have absorbed some flavor.
- Finish seasoning: Stir in the spinach, sugar (optional, but helps to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes), fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Broil: Sprinkle with feta and broil until the sauce is bubbling and feta is golden brown. Dig in and enjoy!
How to store / reheat
You can refrigerate extra chickpea casserole directly in the pot (covered with a lid) or transfer to an airtight container.
Oven: Reheat the food, with the lid off, at 275°F (140°C) until warmed through.
- If you stored the food and are reheating it directly in the pot: Let the pot come to room temperature while the oven preheats. Putting a fridge-cold cast iron pot directly into a hot oven creates a risk of thermal shock, due to the extreme temperature changes. Thermal shock could result in warping or cracking, which would damage the pot. Read this post for more details on caring for cast iron.
Microwave: Reheat the mixture in a microwave-safe container until warmed through.
Stove: Reheat the food, with the lid on, over medium-low heat until warmed through.
Mediterranean Chickpea Casserole with Spinach and Feta
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 medium red onions, diced (about 3 cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced minced
- ½ fine sea salt
- 1 (24 oz/680 ml) jar passata (strained tomatoes) (see note 1)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans: 15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml each)
- 3 packed cups baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar (or coconut sugar, see note 2)
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Black pepper (to taste)
- 2 oz feta cheese (omit or substitute if vegan)
- Chopped flat leaf parsley (for garnish)
- Sauté: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large broiler-safe sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat (see note 3). Add onion, sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and salt, cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Combine and cover: Stir in passata, vegetable broth, bay leaves, oregano, cloves, allspice, and cayenne. Cover the pot with a lid. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes for the flavors to develop.
- Simmer uncovered: Stir in the chickpeas. Cook uncovered until the liquid has reduced by one-third, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Reduce heat if the mixture starts to splatter, but keep mixture actively simmering).
- Turn on broiler: Position a oven rack so that the top of the pot will be 4-inches away from the broiler. Turn oven to broil.
- Finish cooking: Remove bay leaves. Stir in spinach. Cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Broil: Crumble feta overtop. Broil until cheese is golden brown, about 5 minutes (but watch carefully, broil times vary!). Garnish with parsley and serve hot.
- Passata ("strained tomatoes"): Passata is made from strained uncooked tomatoes. It is usually packaged in tall glass jars. If you need to substitute, use crushed tomatoes (not tomato paste or tomato sauce).
- Sugar: The sugar helps balance out the acidity in the tomatoes. Feel free to omit if you prefer.
- Pan: Sauté pans have straight sides; so they typically hold more volume and come with a lid. Use a sauté pan if you have. Otherwise, if using a skillet without a lid, you can position a baking sheet over top as the "lid" when the instructions say to cover. If you don't have a broiler safe pan, you can transfer to a broiler-safe casserole dish for the final step.
- Serving suggestion: This dish is delicious served with bread or soft pita for dipping. It can also be spooned over cooked rice for a heartier meal.
- Reheating instructions: Can be reheated in the oven (uncovered) at 275°F (140°C), in the microwave, or on the stove (covered) over medium-low heat until warmed through. Avoid putting fridge-cold cast iron cookware in a hot oven—to avoid thermal shock, let the pot come to room temperature before putting it in the oven.