Pasta Shells with Chickpea “Meat” Sauce. Oil-free, Gluten-free.


Oil-free, GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea Meat Sauce An Unrefined VeganChickpea juice – the stuff you pour out of the can and down the drain – is all the rage right now. Not as an energy drink, smoothie ingredient, low-tack adhesive, or chemical-free bathroom cleanser, but as a dessert. Some mad vegan scientist figured out that if you combine it with sugar and whip the @#!$ out of it you get a meringue*-like substance.

*In deference to those non-vegans who are highly sensitive to us linguistically lazy vegans misappropriating traditionally carnivore terminology – such as “meat” [not meat] in this post’s title – we shall henceforth and forthwith call chickpea juice + sugar + mixer, “meringue.”

Seriously, would you ever look at the goo that comes out of a can of beans, grab the bag of Domino’s, the hand mixer, and think: something goooood is going to come out of this! Not me. But this explains why I’m just a cook and not a vegan chef with eponymous restaurants in Chicago, New York, and Vegas.

I looked at a can of (drained) chickpeas, some crushed tomatoes and the cast iron skillet and thought: sauce! And something good – if not earth-shattering and certainly not “meringue” – came out of it.

BTW, I use a soy-free red miso from South River.


  • one cup of garbanzo beans delivers about half of the recommended daily serving of fiber, and
  • one cup has 15 grams of protein!
  • eat up for calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus – minerals essential for bone health.


  • the antioxidant lycopene may help protect cells from free radicals, especially skin cells from the damaging affects of the sun
  • consuming potassium-rich tomatoes helps mitigate the affects of sodium on heart rate and blood pressure
  • throw in a little vitamin A and vitamin C – along with other vitamins and minerals

This recipe works beautifully in the pressure cooker! Set the cooker to sauté setting (use low if your appliance is adjustable) and follow the directions below. Once the crushed tomatoes, etc., have been added, change the setting to Manual, then 30 minutes. (The cooker will take several minutes to come to pressure and then the time will tick down.) Let the cooker depressure naturally/slowly. Taste and adjust for seasonings and consistency.

Oil-free, GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea Meat Sauce An Unrefined Vegan


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Pasta Shells with Chickpea "Meat" Sauce by Unrefined Vegan

GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea “Meat” Sauce

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  • Author: Annie
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 60


The next best thing to simmered-all-day pasta sauce. Enjoy this vegan, gluten-free “meat” sauce on pasta or spread over your favorite pizza crust.


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. red miso paste (I use a soy-free variety from South River)
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ~1.2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup, or to taste
  • 13 ounces gluten-free (or whole wheat/grain pasta shells)
  • vegan Parmesan cheese substitute, for garnish, optional
  • chopped fresh basil, for garnish, optional


  1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high, add a splash of water or vegetable broth, and sauté the chopped onion and carrot for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute.
  2. While the carrots and onion cook, put the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to break them down. You don’t want hummus – but you also don’t want any whole chickpeas remaining. Set aside.
  3. Stir the herbs and spices* into the onion/carrot mixture and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas and sauté for about 5 minutes, letting them brown a bit.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, miso, tomato paste, and maple syrup, scraping up the yummy browned bits and stirring well to combine. Turn down the heat to low and let the sauce bubble for about 30 minutes. If you have one of those mesh screens, this is the time to use it.
  5. Stir the sauce occasionally, adding broth or water if it becomes too thick. While it cooks, get the pasta water going and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water, if desired (you can use this to further thin the sauce, if necessary).
  6. When the sauce is done, taste and adjust the seasonings. Pour the pasta into the sauce and stir well, making sure to coat each and every tender shell. Serve with copious amounts of vegan Parmesan cheese and fresh basil if you are lucky enough to have some!


  • *For extra flavor, add a splash of red wine while sautéing the herbs.
  • Chopped kalamata olives would be a yummy addition to this sauce, as would a couple of spoonfuls of capers.


  • Serving Size: 6
  • Calories: 496
  • Sugar: 8
  • Sodium: 963
  • Fat: 13
  • Saturated Fat: 7
  • Unsaturated Fat: 5
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 70
  • Protein: 27
  • Cholesterol: 26

Oil-free, GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea Meat Sauce An Unrefined Vegan

Oil-free, GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea Meat Sauce An Unrefined Vegan

Oil-free, GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea Meat Sauce An Unrefined Vegan

Oil-free, GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea Meat Sauce An Unrefined Vegan

Oil-free, GF Pasta Shells with Chickpea Meat Sauce An Unrefined Vegan


51 thoughts on “Pasta Shells with Chickpea “Meat” Sauce. Oil-free, Gluten-free.

    1. Sophia @veggiesdontbite

      Haha Annie! Totally. My recipe is still in my “in progress” pile and won’t be out for a bit because I have another quick sauce that’s ready to go up first, but I love that we both have the taste for chickpeas in a pasta sauce! They are delicious!

  1. thedailydish

    YUM! Looks delicious, Annie! So funny your talking about the chickpea goo too. Another vegan I follow on Instagram was posting gorgeous pix of her vegan macaroons yesterday and I was absolutely stumped as to how she’d made them. Thanks to you, now I know!

  2. Rachel in Veganland

    YUM! This looks so good. Hearty pasta dishes are my go-tos, especially during the week. They’re both filling and healthful. I make a variation of this using tempeh in the sauce as the “meaty” portion served with a high protein bean based pasta but I think trying out chickpeas will be my next variation on this meal! What a beautiful, sneaky way to pack in a bit more protein. Can’t wait to try it!

  3. Brittany

    HA! I always rinse EXTRA long to get the slimy stuff off my canned beans, what a concept that it can actually be meringue like. This meal looks so delicious.

  4. Angela @ Canned Time

    Yes Ma’am! A BIG bowl please. I have to try this on pizza and I bet it’s heavenly in a calzone something or other. We’ve gotten big into spiralized zucchini since Christmas and this one is just calling for those swirly goodies.
    Chickpea juice meringue? Really? No wonder they think Vegans are crazy!

  5. The Vegan 8

    This looks sooooooooo good Annie! I want it all right now! It looks so hearty and filling! I still can’t believe that chickpea stuff turns into meringue!! Haha! I’m seriously grossed out by the bean goo from cans though, so I probably won’t try it, but I’m still totally fascinated by it. Do you know the actual original creator who thought of it??

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Brandi – that’s exactly how I feel about it! I’d be totally into seeing how it works, but the thought of eating canned bean juice (and sugar, frankly) that’s been whipped is too much for me. I don’t think a recipe has been posted anywhere yet. I just heard about it via Facebook and Instagram.

  6. tearoomdelights

    This is right up my street, I can almost taste how wonderful it is from your stunning photos. I’ve been AWOL for a bit and this is the first time I’ve seen your revamped site. It looks terrific, Annie.

  7. Sophie33

    A fantastic meatless sauce! I made a vegan sauce using TVP & or using lentils before but not yet with chickpeas. I was intrigued so I made it! I love it so much! Great in texture & flavor too! My husband Peter agreed with me too! xxxx

  8. Kyra

    Omg Annie, it has been too long since I’ve come by your blog – your new layout looks so gorgeous!! And this recipe looks scrumptious…chickpeas do have a great “meaty” texture, I need to try this recipe out. And chickpea juice meringue? Intriguing but I think I’ll pass…lol 🙂

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  11. Aimee B.

    This looks fabulous! Can’t wait to try it! 🙂 I have a question about the nutritional info. Are those numbers with the vegan parm?

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Hi Aimee – the parm is included, but I have no control over how the nutritional info is calculated. Recipe Card takes my ingredient list and calculates the calories so I’m not sure how it “reads” certain ingredients.

      1. Aimee B.

        Thank you. And no worries. I was just curious. 🙂 Can’t wait to make this! I know my family will love it.

  12. Party_Hats

    Would this still work well without the miso? It’s very hard to find where I am, but would love to try this out.

  13. Brooke

    I don’t have a food processor so could you just mash the chickpeas with a potato masher? This recipe sounds delicious!

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  18. Vanessa O

    Holy moly!!!! This was AMAZING! This really tasted like meat, it honestly freaked me out. This is my new go to recipe for any type of pasta that I want with a “meaty” taste! Thanks so much!


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