Cannellini Beans and Pasta

Referencing the blog I posted a couple of weeks ago about a local restaurant here in Rome that serves typical Roman dishes I have provided here a recipe with some variations on the same theme of beans and pasta.  I am sure this sounds strange, or at least it did to me when I first saw this on menus here in Rome.  But in fact the two work quite well together.  The misconception lies in the fact that the pasta does not share equal billing with the beans.  Essentially the pasta’s role is more about being a vehicle for the sauce as well as adding a layer of texture that would otherwise not exist.   I don’t consider the pasta to be a  key figure in the flavor profile of the dish.   Having said this I highly recommend you try it in the dish before opting to leave it out on the first try.  I have now made this several times and frankly can’t imagine the dish without the addition of pasta.  Almost any type of pasta works as long as it is a small one.
This dish could be served as an appetizer in a small portion or larger portion as a main dish.

One thing that is also really nice about this dish it’s very adaptable to a wide range of herbs and spices to transform it into a totally different dish. It also works well as a base for meat as well as fish.  I have provide a few alternatives at the end of this post to the basic recipe provided below.

Cannellini Beans with Pasta

8 oz. cannellini beans fresh or dried. If dried soak in salted water overnight.

1 small carrot chopped finely

1 small onion chopped finely

½ a stalk of celery plus any leaves attached chopped finely

2 tbs. of tomato paste or tomato sauce

1tbs. or more of chopped fresh Rosemary (or other fresh herb)

Instructions:

1). Cook the beans on medium heat in enough salted water to cover the beans by half in a pot. Add water as needed during the cooking process.

2). When the beans are tender remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Cooked Cannellini Beans

3) Meanwhile sautee the chopped ingredients in olive oil until soft and tender. It’s fine if they brown slightly.

4) Drain the beans and add only the bean’s cooking liquid to the sautéed vegetables.  Allow to simmer with more water if necessary until the vegetables are tender. Puree in a blender or blitz with a hand held blender and return puree to the pot.


5) Add the beans and the tomato paste and chopped fresh rosemary and allow to simmer very gently. Add salt as needed.

6) If using fresh pasta chop into bite size pieces and add to the beans and liquid. If using dried pasta it is recommended to select a very small pasta such a small macaroni or small penne for this recipe. Cook separately and add to the beans when the past is cooked al dente.  It will continue to cook and absorb liquid in the liquid of the beans.

Other variations:

1) Add a meat ragu as a topping. (left photo)
2) Add chopped zucchini to the beans and past and allow to cook on medium high heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with seared salmon in a shallow bowl.(right photo)
3) Replace the rosemary with fresh thyme, lemon thyme, sage, or oregano. Could change out any of these for your favorite fresh herb.
4) Add crisped bacon or pancetta as a topping.
5) Can also be made with different beans. Here in Italy it is often prepared with chickpeas. I have it a couple of times with cranberry beans and the results are delicious and earthy.