Beans Greens and Pasta adds sunshine to a cold, dreary day. Comfort Food at its best. Now personally, I haven’t met a green or a bean that I didn’t like. But when you put them together with pasta and a few ingredients to kick it up a notch, you have this delicious, satisfying meal. Since it comes together in less than an hour, it can even be enjoyed on a weeknight.
I came across a video for this recipe on Food52. It’s by Sohla El-Waylly. Most recipes have way more salt than I find necessary to the dish, but I will leave the amounts up to you. Just remember that you can always add salt but once you have put too much in a dish, it is almost impossible to take it away. Many years ago, someone taught me that if you over-salt broth, you can add a whole, peeled raw potato to the liquid to absorb the extra salt. The potato is then discarded. Absent that, you are pretty much stuck.
And once you learn how everything comes together, you can feel free to swap out the collard greens for kale or any other firm green that you have on hand and like. Cannellini beans (also known as white kidney beans) are super creamy and meaty, but you could easily use a Great Northern, Navy or Tarbais bean. Orecchiette pasta (“little ears”) is pretty and produces just the right “bite” that you look for in this dish, but any smallish pasta that you have available will work.
So learn the techniques – none of which are difficult – and then make this dish your own. But do make it because it is just so, so delicious. Greens, Beans and Pasta takes a salty, flavorful meat, but it doesn’t have to be traditional bacon, although that is what I used this go around. Feel free to substitute pancetta, smoked turkey leg or turkey bacon. However, keep in mind the fat content, because all of that beautiful fat means flavor. And at the end of the day, it really isn’t all that much. If you choose to make this without any meat, then be sure to add the most flavorful EVOO that you can afford.
I can’t really imagine making this dish without cheese, so you could do a vegetarian version, but a vegan version would be lacking in my opinion. You want to use a flavorful, somewhat salty cheese like a good Reggiano Parmesan or a Pecorino. The recipe does call for hot pepper flakes, but you control the heat and this could be left out if you really want without compromising the dish.
Now I know that pre-pandemic bread had gone out of favor in a lot of circles – something I NEVER could understand, but okay. During the pandemic, apparently a lot of people took up bread-baking and for a time there was actually a total shortage of yeast. This dish simply cries out for a good crusty baguette to wipe up the creamy, utterly yummy sauce that is produced. So I’m begging you – eat bread!
For other great pasta ideas:
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
- 5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) orecchiette (or another short dry pasta, like macaroni or penne)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water, divided
- 4 slices (6 ounces) thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves
- About 1 pound collard greens (about 2 small bunches)
- 1 (15.5-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, depending on your spice tolerance
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ounce Parmesan or pecorino, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus more to serve
- 1 tablespoon butter (unsalted and salted both work)
- Put the pasta in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock or water, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t clumping together. [The pasta gives off starch, which will make a creamy sauce. It also allows the pasta to cook quickly and not absorb too much of the cooking liquid.]
- Add the bacon to a 4-quart Dutch oven along with 2 tablespoons of water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat melts out of the bacon and the bacon grows brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. (If you’re using turkey bacon, add 1 tablespoon of any oil along with the water.)
- Meanwhile, smash, peel, and finely chop the garlic. Strip the collard leaves from the stems. Stack the leaves and cut lengthwise into four long sections. Stack the pieces and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick strips (you should have about 6 cups lightly packed of manageable-sized greens).
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon from the Dutch oven and transfer to a plate, leaving all of the fat behind. Add the garlic and cook until tender and aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
- Add the collards, the remaining 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock or water, and a big pinch of salt and black pepper. (Unless you are using unsalted stock, only add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to start.) Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain an active simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the liquid has reduced to about 1 cup and the greens are tender and silky, 40 to 45 minutes. Taste the greens and add more salt and black pepper if needed. Add the beans and stir through. (You want it to be very well seasoned at this point, so the liquid and greens can season the pasta. But remember, you still have the salty cheese and bacon to add back in.)
- Add the pasta along with the soaking liquid and simmer, stirring constantly, until the pasta is al dente, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add about 2/3 of the cheese, 1 Tablespoon of butter, and about 1/2 of the reserved bacon, and stir well to combine.
- Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and garnish with more cheese and bacon.