White Bean Pasta Bake. / Photo by: EE Berger / Food Styling: Ross Yedinak / Prop Styling: Stephanie Potts
One Friday afternoon, I found myself looking for a way to combine my favorite comfort foods (pasta and beans) with a bit of a fridge cleanout. I liked what I came up with but thought it could use some refinement, so I made it again. And again. As such, this is a flexible recipe—use whatever greens, nuts and cheese you have. Leave the cheese out if you’re vegan or dairy-free. If you really want to up the comfort factor, use finer breadcrumbs, rather than coarse, and bake it at 375˚F, like a casserole.
These little white beans have a greenish tint before cooking. Common to French cuisine, they’re creamy, thin-skinned and mild in flavor, which makes them a great option for bean skeptics. Other white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini, have a similarly mild flavor but a slightly starchier texture.
Bring well-salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
Meanwhile, combine greens and herbs, walnuts and garlic in food processor. Pulse until pasty. With processor running, slowly stream in olive oil just until incorporated. Season with salt, to taste.
When pasta is boiled, set aside ½ cup pasta water. Drain pasta, and transfer to casserole dish. Combine with greens mixture and beans, adding bean-cooking liquid and/or pasta water until saucy.
(Bean-cooking liquid is more flavorful; pasta water tempers garlic. Pick and mix to taste.) Season with salt, to taste.
Top with breadcrumbs and Parmigiano, if using. Serves 4.
How to Cook Flageolet Beans
In small, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a miniature Dutch oven, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 1 minced rib celery, ¼ cup minced yellow onion and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and tender but not browned.
Add 8 ounces dried flageolet beans. Stir to coat. Add ¼ cup dry white wine, pinch dried rosemary, small pinch fennel seed, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt and boiling water to cover beans by 2 inches. Adjust heat to maintain simmer, cover partially, and cook until beans are tender, usually 1–2 hours. Season with salt, to taste.
Despite being dry, this wine carries honeylike notes that will play nicely off of the walnuts and toasty breadcrumbs. Its peppery flavors and bright acidity will cut through the earthy bean flavors, and its herbaceous notes are perfectly suited to the herbs and garlic in this dish.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!