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.

Rome: Palazzo Spada

Saturday was once again rainy and a bit dreary.  But the upside is that the tourist stay in while we venture out.  And, frankly, Rome not unlike Paris is actually quite beautiful in the rain. The cobblestone streets and sidewalks come alive; wet, shiny and reflective.  The green of vegetation becomes exaggerated and enhanced creating a contrast to the otherwise gray smog stained buildings.

We took a nice walk over to Palazzo Spada and spent  a few hours or so touring the picture galleries of this wonderful renaissance palace.  Only one floor is open to the public but enough paintings and period furnishings to keep us occupied for the morning.

After the picture galleries we headed downstairs and out the back into a wonderful courtyard to view the perspective colonnade by Borromini.  The rain was pouring but nothing could take away from this fascinating three dimensional perspective.  Be sure to check it out here: http://www.artbabble.org/video/ngadc/empire-eye-magic-illusion-palazzo-spadas-corridor-part-5

 

After spending some time photographing and pondering the genius of this architectural wonder we headed back out into the wet city.  Not far from the entrance to the gallery there is a restaurant, La Quercia, that we have passed many times but had never tried.  This time with so much rain and no other place in mind for lunch it seemed destined for a first try.

laquerciaI
La Quercia Interior

We were the first to arrive for lunch. This is typical for us. Somehow we have not gotten accustomed to eating lunch as late as the locals do. Lunch here does not really get started until at least one and really even later on weekends. The interior is very warm and cozy; the perfect place for this rainy day.

LaquerciaII

We started by ordering a bottle of Poggio Dei Gelsi. This was the least expensive bottle on the menu but the only white from the Lazio region which is to say a local vineyard. The wine was fairly dry and went well with everything we ordered; the perfect table wine.

PorciniI
Sauteed Porcini Mushrooms

Our waiter soon arrived with a basket of fresh Porcini mushrooms and suggested we try them in one of two ways; either sauteed or with fettuccine. We opted to share the sauteed version.

PumkinrisottoI
Pumpkin Risotto with Clams

The mushrooms were sliced and diced into nice size chunks and sauteed in olive oil along with garlic and rosemary.  Grilled whole wheat bread was nestled in for soaking up the sauce.  These were really really good.  So succulent!

Rabbitwitholives
Braised Rabbit with Black Olives

Next we decided on one of the special dishes of the day which was risotto and pumpkin with clams.  Again, a really delicious dish. The salty sea infused clams contrasted nicely with the creamy background of the pumpkin while the rice, cooked al dente, offered texture and balance.

The final dish we ordered and shared as well was the rabbit cooked with black olives.  A beautiful presentation with glossy black olives and creamy puree of potatoes and again some bread nestled in for soaking up the sauce. The rabbit had been braised with herbs and garlic and was super tender and succulent.

All in all a wonderful rainy Saturday here in Rome.