A steamy bowl of Pasta With Beans And Greens is a comforting, delicious and yet healthy meal. Prepared in under 30 minutes from the simplest of ingredients, this Italian dish is also budget friendly, making it perfect to serve your family during the week.
Meals like this are often referred to as Italian peasant food or cucina povera. Fugal home cooks, not wanting to waste anything edible, used whatever ingredients they might have had in their kitchens or came from their farms to prepare simple but tasty family meals. Many times it was a one pot meal called minestra, zuppa or minestrone, a hearty soup or stew that usually contained vegetables, beans, pasta or grains.
Thankfully I’m not poor and my pantry and fridge are fully stocked but I also hate to be wasteful. I recently saved a large romaine lettuce and tomato salad which was dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice from a dinner the previous evening. Now anyone who has tried to save a salad dressed with a vinaigrette knows that it can start to wilt almost immediately but all was not lost. I know that tomatoes, greens, olive oil and lemon add great flavors to soups and created this meal using the leftover salad much the way a fugal Italian cook might have done with ingredients she had on hand in her kitchen. Of course, you can use all fresh ingredients to make this delicious dish.
Ditalini Pasta With Beans And Greens
Serves two generously, adjust the recipe accordingly.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 c. cooked cannelloni beans or 2 15 oz. cans, drained
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 15 oz. can low sodium broth, either beef, chicken or vegetable
- 1 c. water, more if needed
- 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 – 3/4 c. ditalini or other small tube pasta
- 4 c. tender greens, chopped (I used romaine)
- 1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
- extra virgin olive oil to drizzle before serving (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add half of beans, broth, water, oregano, basil, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook until some of the beans start to break and thicken the liquid, about ten minutes. You can use the back of a spoon to break up some of the beans, if necessary.
Increase the heat to a boil and add the tomatoes, the other half of the beans and the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pasta is “al dente”, about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The ditalini quickly absorbs the sauce so you may need to add more liquid. Add the greens, lower the heat and cook about three to five minutes, which will wilt the greens but keep some of the stems crunchy texture. Remove the bay leaf before serving, add the lemon juice and taste for additional seasoning. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with some grated cheese and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, if you wish.
I believe that you will enjoy this healthy meal of pasta with beans and greens. It can be modified to suit your taste and what you have available even if you are vegetarian or vegan. If you have the time to make homemade stock and beans…perfect, as you control each and every ingredient. If you’re a busy mother trying to get a healthy and filling meal on the table for your young family, you can use packaged broth and beans as I did to get dinner on my dinner table in a hurry.
I hate wasting food so my refrigerator always has containers with leftovers from a previous meal. My husband refers to me as the “goddess of garbage” because I can create a new and delicious meal out of leftovers that many people might have thrown in the garbage. I’d love to know, do you toss food that was left over at the end of a meal or do you get creative and us it for another meal.