My go-to quick and easy pasta dinner, easily adaptable to whatever's in your pantry.
Making a pasta sauce from beans would have sounded like a bizarre concept to me not too long ago, but after seeing recipes pop up here and there, I thought I should give the idea the benefit of the doubt. This version arose on one of those nights where it's already getting late and you still have no idea what to make for dinner. I had a jar of beans I'd cooked and stored in the fridge, an some leftover steamed kohlrabi tops, some stale bread, my usual pantry items and not much else. This dish was born out of necessity but is now one that we crave and eat variations of in our regular rotation, usually at least once a week.
This dish is such a winning combo - al dente pasta, creamy, garlicky beans, crunchy breadcrumbs and a kick of chilli. As with many a good recipe, it's all about the interplay between the textures. It's also surprisingly easy to make, flexible and comes together in about half an hour.
This dish is almost more of a formula meant to inspire you than a recipe. Mash some legumes with garlic, throw in some seasonal greens, toss with pasta and olive oil, top with something crispy. I used beans that I cooked from dried in this instance, and that definitely adds more flavour and complexity to the dish, but you can use canned and just season them well. If you want to learn how to cook beans in a way that makes them delicious to eat straight from the pot, I recommend watching this video from Bon Appetit. I use this method but in my instant pot, cooking for 20-35 minutes depending on the bean. My fats of choice are olive oil and vegetable ghee.
Beans & Greens Pasta with Spicy Garlic Breadcrumbs Vegan. Healthy-ish.
For the breadcrumbs:
1 cups grated or food-processed stale bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon good chilli flakes
For the pasta:
150-200g (5.3-7oz) short pasta such as penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup cooked beans or lentils (I used borlotti/cranberry beans)
a handful of raw greens or 1/4 cup cooked greens (I used cooked kohlrabi greens but kale or spinach would work well)
Preheat the oven to 220c / 430f
For the breadcrumbs, toss all of the ingredients together, spread out on a sheet pan, and bake until golden (check every 5 minutes or so), then set aside.
For the pasta, bring a pan of well salted water to the boil and cook according to the suggested cooking time. When draining the pasta, it's important to reserve 0.5 cups of the water it's been cooked in. This contains starch that will thicken the sauce.
While the pasta cooks, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat and fry the garlic until fragrant and soft but not brown.
Add the beans and the greens if you're using raw. Cook for 5 minutes, roughly mashing with a potato masher as you go. Season to taste.
When the pasta is cooked, stir it, along with the reserved cooking liquid, into the beans. If you're using cooked greens, add them too. Stir over low heat until the pasta is well coated and the sauce is a good consistency. No more than 2 minutes.
Serve the pasta topped with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and plenty of breadcrumbs.