Beans & Greens: “Roman” Pasta

"Roman" Beans, Greens and Pasta

This is installment #3 in the series on Beans and Greens. I’m calling this recipe Roman Pasta because it’s based on a dish I had in a NYC restaurant that used Roman Beans in the preparation.  I don’t think it’s particularly Roman otherwise.

Roman Beans are also known as Cranberry Beans in the US and Borlotti in Italy and are a speckled heirloom variety often available in the US under those and other names. Actually, any sort of sturdy bean can be used in this dish, it’s just that the darker reddish ones make for a prettier presentation. So, feel free to use whatever bean you have on hand, such as the Red Kidneys that I’ve used here.

The recipe includes a mix of mild Italian sausage and Guanciale, an un-smoked cured Italian jowl bacon.  You could substitute salt pork or blanched smoked bacon for the Guanciale or leave all the meat out for a vegetarian version.  If you make a vegetarian version, add 2Tbs. olive oil in place of the Guanciale fat for sauteing the onions and other ingredients.

I’ve used a mix of curly endive and fresh basil for the greens.  You could substitute Swiss chard, escarole or other sturdy greens for the endive or a mix of various greens, and either leave out the basil or use a smaller amount of dried basil.

Kidney beans, Guanciale, curly endive and basil

“Roman” Pasta

1 mild Italian sausage
1 oz. Guanciale, cut into lardons
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
1 can (16 oz.) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz. (about 1/2 of a large head) of curly endive, coarsely chopped, coarse stems removed
1 oz. fresh basil, stemmed and roughly chopped or torn
Black pepper, a generous grind
Crushed red pepper, pinch
4 oz. dry pasta, such as Cellentani, Rigatoni, Penne, Gemelli, etc.

Saute ingredients and add almost cooked pasta

Saute the Guanciale in a 4 qt. saute pan until just barely crisped.  Reserve the lardons.

Brown the sausage in the remaining fat from the Guanciale, set aside and roughly chop into bite sized pieces.  Don’t worry if the sausage is not fully cooked at this point, it will cook more later.

Put the pasta on to boil while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  Cook the pasta until just slightly under done.

Saute the onion in the remaining oil in the pan until translucent.  About 5 minutes before the pasta is done, add the beans, endive, basil, sausage, pepper and crushed red pepper.  Saute, turning frequently to mix the ingredients and work the less wilted greens down towards the bottom.  Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the saute pan to make it a little saucy.  Take care to not overcook the greens – you want them wilted, not crunchy and definitely not cooked to the point where they lose their fresh color; after you add the greens, about 5 minutes total.

Drain the pasta (reserve a cup of pasta cooking water) and add to the saute pan with the other ingredients.  Mix the ingredients and continue cooking a minute or two, adding pasta water as needed if the mix seems dry but not so much as to  make it soupy, just saucy.

Top each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves two for a generous supper or 4 to 6 as the pasta course of a larger meal.

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