Well, it’s a start… a little red and green to go with all that white. This is a shortcut, Americanized version of a pasta recipe Ivonne did full justice to last week on her blog, Cream Puffs in Venice. Hers centers around dried beans, lovingly soaked overnight and simmered for hours until tender. I used canned organic beans for speed, applewood smoked bacon for convenience, and threw in a handful of baby spinach at the end just for the heck of it. It was delicious, and I can only imagine how much better it would have been, particularly texture-wise, had I followed the recipe as written!
Pasta with Red Bean Sauce
1 14-oz can red kidney beans (low sodium please)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 thick slices applewood bacon, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
1 celery stalk, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb rotini (or the pasta of your choice)
A handful or two of baby spinach
A few tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano for grating
Set a large pot of water to boil for your pasta. While you wait for the water to boil, prepare the rest of the sauce by cooking the bacon in a large, wide saute pan over medium heat. Once the bacon is nearly done, add the onion and celery, stirring often. Continue cooking until the bacon is browned and the onion and celery have softened; add the garlic in the last few minutes. This should take between 15 and 20 minutes.
Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the bacon mixture; mash everything up a bit with a potato masher or the back of your spoon. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Cook for several minutes to heat through, then turn the heat off while you cook your pasta.
When the water for the pasta has boiled, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it—but reserve about a cup of pasta water before doing so—and add the pasta to the bean and bacon mixture, along with the baby spinach. Turn the heat on low as you gently combine the pasta with the sauce. If it appears dry, and it well may, add pasta water a bit at a time until it comes to a good consistency, neither dry nor watery. By this time, the spinach should have just wilted from the heat. Top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and serve immediately.