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White Beans and Wilted Greens (with Pasta if you like)

May 20, 2010

The first time I had white beans and wilted greens was as an appetizer at a great little spot, Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, in Florence. A hearty slice of  toasted Tuscan bread topped with garlicky greens and perfectly cooked white beans started our meal. YUM. I was glad to hear from friends who recently ate there that the food is still fantastic (and it’s still open after 20+ years).  I’ve been wanting to recreate this or something similar so decided to make a side dish of cannellini beans and wilted greens last night. Well, the fish I’d grilled didn’t turn out as I’d hoped so I decided to add them to some pasta and schzam a new creation was born…I love when that happens. I had sautéed onion, garlic, smoked pancetta and some spices to flavor the beans and greens, tossed it all with some small orecchiette pasta then added a “filo” or sting of olive oil and sprinkle of grated Parmigiano on top. It can be eaten hot, warm or cold and is good all three ways especially when served with a nice red wine, be it a lighter Nebbiolo, middle bodied Barberesco or bold Barolo or Chianti. Now THAT’s Italian.


Cannellini beans with wilted spinach and arugula

Add some pasta to make this a meal

 For 4 servings:

1 small white onion – chopped

2 cloves garlic – chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil – one for sautéing and one for drizzling

2 Tbsp. chopped smoked pancetta

a pinch of ground cayenne pepper

a pinch of rubbed sage

a pinch of ground rosemary

1 can cannellini beans

2 big handfuls of baby spinach

2 big handfuls of arugula

8 oz. pasta ( using a smaller shape, such as orecchiette, that can nestle the beans works well)

grated Parmigiano

salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in large pan and sauté onion, garlic and pancetta. Add cayenne, pepper, salt and beans. In a large pot of salted water, boil pasta. Just before it is al dente, add the arugula to cook for about 30 seconds and at the very end add the spinach which will wilt in a matter of seconds. Drain pasta and greens and put into pan with beans. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and serve adding cheese to each dish.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2010 8:46 pm

    The cute little ear seems to cuddle an individual bean…. precious and tasty white on white. Pork. Pasta. Parmesean. Aglio e olio. So simple. So delicious. Home in a bowl.

    I’m convinced that sauteed pancetta would make tree bark and grass clippings edible. Pork, pork, pork, what would we do without you?!

    As a hurried momma trying to get supper on the table, I LOVE adding the veggies to the boiling pasta water. I’ve found that carrots take the longest and slightly color/flavor the pasta. Broccoli takes 1-2 minutes depending on the bite sizes. For leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, rocket, shredded cabbage) I usually just put them in the colander before I drain the pasta.

    Reading this reminds of the Greek recipe for Gigandes (stewed large lima or butter beans) that you may also like. The recipe includes some of the same aromatics, but also features tomatoes in the flavor profile. Gigandes mezethes are served warm or room temp and usually with Calamata olives and Greek table wine. The tomato acidity pairs so well with the richness of the olive oil and the earthy beans… add crusty bread and you have home in a bowl (Greek style).

  2. May 20, 2010 9:03 pm

    Fasolia Gigandes (Butter Bean Stew), adapted from Sofi’s Aegean Kitchen
    24 oz. dried large lima beans (aka butter beans)
    1/2 c olive oil
    2 med onions, finely chopped
    3 garlic cloves, pressed (I use 3; orig recipe calls for 1)
    3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced*
    3/4 c. tomato sauce*
    splash (2 tsp.) Splash of red wine vinegar (optional)
    good drizzle (2 tsp.) honey
    3 T. flat leaf parseley, finely chopped
    Freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste (usu. 2 tsp each, depending on sodium in tom. sauce)
    2 c. water

    Place beans in large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil over medium heat and cook, partly covered for about 1 hour, or until beans are almost tender, adding water as needed to keep beans covered. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 F.**

    In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and saute onions until translucent. Add garlic, tomatoes, sauce, salt, pepper, and water. Simmer, covered over low heat for 20 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Transfer beans to a casserole or baking dish. Pour tomato mixture over beans and gently stir. Bake for 40 minutes, until beans are tender and sauce is thick. Serve warm or room temp, with just a little drizzle of good olive oil and accompany with bread and olives.

    Good luck trying to not sop up the tomatoey goodness with the bread.

    * When tomatoes are out of season, use good quality canned tomatoes (diced, in sauce) – 1 x 28 oz San Marzano or 2 reg 15 oz will do nicely.
    ** Baked is better, BUT I have also skipped the oven and done the baking part in a slow cooker. Low all day while at work or high for 2-3 hours.

  3. brc permalink
    May 20, 2010 9:17 pm

    This looks fantastic. It reminds me of my mother-in-law’s cooking. She makes a similar dish with spinach and garbanzos without the pasta.

    BTW.. I have given up trying to figure out why I don’t get the emails from the blog… so I just bookmarked it.

  4. May 21, 2010 7:16 am

    Thanks girls! I finally learned to like little beans as an adult. Still can’t manage larger ones, I think it’s a texture thing as I love the flavor of fava beans but they need to be in small pieces. Jessica, the recipe sounds yummy. Thanks for sending it & B, I know anything your mother-in-law makes is out of this world. I’d like to camp at her house to learn from her 🙂

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