Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spaghetti with Spinach, Cannellini Beans, and Garlic Chips

I never thought to add beans to a pasta dish until I tasted this classic Tuscan-style dish at an incredible hole-in-the-wall restaurant down a charming, winding street in Siena, Italy. It turns out that whole wheat spaghetti is the perfect partner to high fiber, nutrient-rich dark greens, tomatoes and cannellini beans.

To recreate this classic Tuscan dish, I used fresh spinach as opposed to a bitter green, and cooked the onion, garlic and red chili flakes at the same time. I'm trying to find ways to incorporate more spinach into my diet and this dish is definitely a winner! To elevate the mildly favored cannellini beans, I added tomatoes, lemon juice, and kalamata olives for acidity and saltiness, garlic chips for a pungent crunch, and a generous mountain of finely grated parmesan for an earthy note. I used nutty whole wheat spaghetti to balance the wholesome, nutrient-packed dish.

What's not to love in this wonderful combination of bold, complex flavors? The best part is that using canned cannellini beans makes it an easy, quick, and satisfying dish. I used bunches of fresh spinach which took time to clean and prepare, but the bags of spinach would work well too.

After a couple bites, we were in agreement that this balanced and hearty dish must be added to the regular weeknight rotation.

Spaghetti with spinach, cannellini beans, and garlic chips (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, November 1, 2005)
3 tbsp olive oil
20 oz fresh spinach, chopped into 1" pieces, rinsed thoroughly and water still clinging to leaves
1 medium onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
8 cloves of garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup of vegetable broth
3/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted roughly chopped
1 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
3/4 lb whole wheat spaghetti
sea salt
1/2 of lemon for juicing

Heat oil and sliced garlic in a large 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Add onion to skillet, cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red chili flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant about 30 seconds.

Ad half of spinach to pan and using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining greens, tomatoes, broth, and 3/4 tsp salt; cover and increase heat to high and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans and olives.

Meanwhile bring water to a boil, add 1 tbsp salt, and cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add mixture to pasta over medium-high heat and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of the liquid, about 2 minutes. (If too dry, add reserved water 1 tbsp at a time).  Stir in 1 cup of parmesan, adjusting seasoning salt and pepper. Drizzle with lemon juice.

Serve immediately, passing garlic chips, extra-virgin olive oil, and finely grated parmesan at the table.


  1. We just ate pasta with white beans last night! I agree that it works really well. We also added tuna, capers, kalamata olives, fresh chopped tomato, broccoli and some feta. It was so good - maybe I can make it when I come out to SF! Xxxooo

  2. Can we do this too??

  3. Ohh your pasta and beans sound delicious- I can't wait to try it! The mac and cheese recipe looks good but I think I told you that I made the best mac and cheese in the world for a wedding in Tahoe. We can make it when you are out here in 27 days!!! Sending lots of love!

  4. AnonymousJuly 03, 2011

    I think you are an expert in practical gourmet cooking!!!


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