I can think of no other food that radiates humble, simple elegance like the bean. Beans are easy to cook, fit into most dietary lifestyles, and are seasonless– they make a hearty wintertime stew or a chilled summery salad with equal aplomb.
Last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans, and made a little game of seeing what I could do with them throughout the week that wouldn’t grow wearisome. The pasta with beans and mushrooms, lemony asparagus-bean salad, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl were each distinct, and each a success.
The true miracle of it is that only four ounces of meat were used to season just one of the dishes, and yet meat was not missed. Beans are tasty, protein-rich, loaded with fiber, and when used with other flavorful ingredients are totally satisfying.
This post includes the recipe for the pasta, bean, and mushroom dish. Recipes for the other two dishes will come in quick succession in separate posts. An Ode to the Bean trilogy, if you will.
In the third post, we’ll address the elephant in the room– the Magical Fruit Effect.
Why go to the trouble of cooking dried beans?
Let’s talk about the advantage of using dried beans rather than canned, not that there’s anything wrong with that! The texture of beans cooked from scratch is more toothsome, less waterlogged, and texturally more interesting. There are nearly infinite varieties of dried beans, each having their own unique flavor, too. Some are clean with an almost mineral slate-like flavor (the Alubia Blanca is an example), some are slightly smoky flavored, some are nutty, and some are meaty.
Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes– each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with.
A pound of beans cooks up into ten full-sized servings– likely more when used with other ingredients– making them a definite proletariat choice.
In their brilliant display of versatility, beans eagerly accept the flavors of the ingredients they are put with. The humble bean grows in most climates, and people from most cultures use beans in some way in their cooking. There’s just so much to love about the unassuming bean.
It’s hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.
Grower’s + Makers Wine Notes:
With the Pasta, Bean, and Mushrooms dish we served RoxyAnn Winery 2017 Claret. This Bordeaux-style blend, grown in warm Southern Oregon, is rich and soft and great with these mushrooms. It’s a good value, too.
To start with, you’ll need a cooked pot of beans. No one can describe how to do this easy, basic step better than the folks at Rancho Gordo, so allow me to make that introduction. “Rancho Gordo, meet my friend. Friend. . . Rancho Gordo.”
If you like this recipe, please give it a star rating, and leave any comments letting me know what you think!
Be well, friends.
Humble Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms
- 3 cups white beans, cooked or canned white beans
- ½ pound pasta, your choice orecchiette is nice- it holds the little beans!
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 pound mushrooms, any kind (these are chestnut mushrooms)
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 2 Tablespoons chopped chives
- 2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup bean cooking liquid, or reserved pasta water
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
- 1 lemon, zested and squeezed
- ground black pepper to taste
- Put a pot of water with a palmful of salt (about 3 Tablespoons) on to boil. Boil pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. (It will finish cooking later.) If you don't have any reserved bean cooking liquid, reserve a cup of the cooking water and drain. Set the pasta and pasta water aside.
- While the water comes to a boil, clean and trim the mushrooms. If using button mushrooms cut them into quarters. Zest the lemon and squeeze it of its juice. Set them aside.
- Mix together the chopped oregano, chives, and parsley and set them aside on your cutting board.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, mushrooms, shallot, and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, leaving the mushrooms in place to brown a bit before stirring. Repeat, leaving the mushrooms undisturbed for a few minutes before stirring until they are cooked through and have a slight browned color. Adjust your temperature if the shallots are browning too quickly. Remove about ⅓ of the mushrooms from the pan and reserve for serving.
- To the mushrooms in the skillet add the beans, pasta, and bean cooking liquid or pasta water, scraping up any mushroom juices. Stir, and season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir in about half the mixed herbs and the lemon juice. Allow the cooking liquid to reduce about ⅓, leaving some moisture in the pan.
- Spoon the pasta, beans and mushrooms into a a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Spoon any pan juices over the top. Place the reserved mushrooms on top, along with a healthy sprinkling of fresh herbs and lemon zest.