If you have a thing for chocolate, the world is your oyster. On this very site, 86 of the just over 800 recipes boast a significant chocolate component and entire sections of bookstores will be happy to fill in any cravings I missed. If you have a thing for bacon, the internet would be overjoyed to find you places to put it, zillions, even, although I’d proceed with caution before auditioning a couple. But if you have a thing for something slightly less of a prom king/queen ingredient, say, tiny white beans, well, it can be tough. It’s not there are no uses for them, it’s just that when you’re very much in love, there are never enough ways to be together. And if you’re me — someone who sometimes ups and makes a mega-pot of white beans just because you feel like it, presuming you’ll find things to do with them later — you sometimes end up scrambling, yanking down nearly every cookbook in your collection but still coming up bereft of uses outside the well-trodden soup-and-salad territory.
So tell me: What are you favorite uses for beans outside the ever-popular realm of chili, tacos, soup and salad? Really, I’m hankering for more inspiration. I ended up finding some — but never enough — in this month’s Bon Appetit, in a stack of pasta recipes you will find it impossible to choose among from Sara Jenkins of Porchetta and Porsena (and green bean salad, sigh) fame. I was so charmed by the short tubes of pasta with chickpeas, I made it almost immediately but maybe it was because I’ve overdone it on chickpeas this month, but I kept thinking it would be nice with something… daintier. And considering that it is an established fact (um, in Italy, where I suspect both my white bean and artichoke obsessions could roam free) that white beans, garlic, rosemary and olive oil are a combination sent from above, I had a hunch they’d be happy here too.
The result is a great pasta for this time of year, deeply comforting and hearty but not overly decadent. There’s no heavy cream or cheese, or dairy at all; there’s no bacon (I’m sorry) or even a pinch of meat. And you won’t miss any of these things because, like a certain soup I have missed immensely since last week, it’s the finish that makes the dish — in this case, a sizzling oil with not just garlic but freshly minced rosemary too. If you finish that with a few pinches of sea salt, oh boy. You’ll see. It’ll make a convert out of you too.
One year ago: Potato Chip Cookies
Two years ago: Roast Chicken with Dijon Sauce
Three years ago: Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Four years ago: Chicken Milanese and an Escarole Salad and Flaky Blood Orange Tart
Five years ago: Leek and Swiss Chard Tart and Key Lime Cheesecake
Six years ago: Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans and Icebox Cake
Book Tour II: Just in case your missed the announcement a couple weeks ago, The Smitten Kitchen Book Tour marches on in February and March, with eight cities (hello, Atlanta/St.Louis/Minneapolis/Salt Lake/Denver/Raleigh/Montreal! plus an additional, awesome event in Brooklyn). I hope this means we finally get to meet.
Pasta and White Beans with Sizzling Garlic-Rosemary Oil
Adapted, barely, from Sara Jenkins via Bon Appetit
For the pasta, I used pennete, because I thought it nicely matched the little white beans (Rancho Gordo’s Alubia Blanca). Sara Jenkins called for ditalini to go with chickpeas. You can use whatever you’d like — short tubes, even elbows, and canned beans are just fine here.
I streamlined the recipe a bit to reduce the number of bowls and pots used,
because I’m having the kind of week where if I see another dirty dish, I’ma run far away ahem, to make things easier.
This makes a lot of pasta, because you’re using a whole pound plus two cans of beans, so it’s a great recipe to consider halving if you wish to finish it before spring comes.
1 medium onion, cut into big chunks
1 medium carrot, in big chunks
1 celery stalk, in big chunks
6 garlic cloves, 4 left whole, 2 finely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
Coarse or kosh salt
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 1/2 cups cooked, drained beans (save cooking liquid for water in recipe, if desired) or 2 15-ounce cans small white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannelini), rinsed
1 pound short tube pasta (see suggestions above)
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste (original recipe calls for 2T but we enjoyed it with 3) and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup water or bean cooking liquid and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add beans and 2 more cups of water (or bean cooking liquid) to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside. I know you didn’t ask for one, but can I insert an argument for al dente pasta here? The thing is, you don’t want your pasta to fully cook in the water. If you do, it won’t have any absorbency left to drink up and become with that delicious sauce. I have really found that finishing pasta in its sauce is the single thing that most swiftly improved the quality of my pasta dishes.
Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta.
Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes.
To serve: Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Divide pasta between serving bowls and drizzle garlic-rosemary oil over each. If you’re us, you’ll finish this with a few flakes of sea salt. Eat at once.