Cook the pasta according to the package directions; add the escarole during the last 2 minutes, cover and do not stir. Remove the escarole with tongs; set aside. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Meanwhile, if you're using capers, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the capers and fry until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Cook the garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes until the garlic toasts slightly, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, a pinch of salt and the bay leaves. Cook until the tomatoes and chickpeas brown, about 6 minutes. Add the escarole and reserved tomato juice and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 4 more minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce; season with salt and pepper. (If the sauce is thick, add some reserved pasta water.) Stir in the cheese and top with fried capers, if using, and more cheese.
Photograph by Antonis Achiellos
Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine