Meatless Monday: Pasta and white beans with garlic-rosemary oil

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Smitten Kitchen is the apparent gold standard in terms of food blogs. I know little about the writer and its purpose, but my sister worships at its altar. I think she is trying to work each recipe on the site and in its recently released cookbook, which she received as a Christmas present from The Wife and I.

I think its popularity comes from the beautiful photography and the fun narrative that the writer spins with each recipe. I write a recipe from a more technical standpoint. If I didn’t, I would lose an instruction or ingredient along the way. The writer of SK, who I’ve now discovered is named Deb, injects a lot of personality in her instructions in that, “It’s not that hard. You can do it” sort of way. Good on her. It’s probably part of the reason she gets as many viewers in a week as I get in a year (various sources say that she gets 68,000+ unique visitors per month; I get…less than that).

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Tonight marks my last recipe for the next week or so. By the time I post this, I’ll be in the air somewhere over the American southeast, en route to Dallas. I wanted something for dinner tonight that would cover The Wife for a night of leftovers (Tangent: I don’t like leaving The Wife at home alone. Left to her own devices, she will eat crackers and peanut butter for dinner. You know what crackers and peanut butter are? What the kid who forgot his lunch would get when I was a student at Donlin Drive Elementary. Mrs. Burrows, a surly woman who took the milk money each day — probably to buy cigarettes or the souls of other children — would make you go through the line, beg for crackers, wait for everyone else to get their milk, then come back to make your own. And, if memory serves me correctly, you could only have five crackers. Her name was Muriel, the perfect name for a woman who spent her weekends killing kittens and bunny rabbits. She could make children cry by simply looking at them. Rumor has it that the one time she smiled during the 1980s resulted in Hurricane Gloria.). So, I try to make sure that between leftovers and the freezer that there is enough food to heat and eat, while dealing with The Kid. At least if the food is in the fridge, she will eat it from guilt that it will spoil.

WHAT WORKED: I added some baby spinach to bring a little color and some antioxidants to the dish. We eat a lot of beans here, but I was looking for a green, leafy vegetable tonight. Spinach is inoffensive and mild enough to not interrupt anything here.

WHAT DIDN’T: Wegmans and me. No parsley on Sunday when I was grocery shopping and I forgot to get tomato paste.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: Dialogue from dinner:
-Her: “This is good.”
-Me: “I purposely made it so you could stretch a lunch and dinner out of it.”
-Her: “Thank you. Wait. You’re going to make fun of how I eat when you’re away.”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Absolutely. I don’t think that the tomato paste made much difference. I just cut back on the vegetable stock that I substituted for water. And next time I would probably use half as much pasta.

This recipe was made for an immersion blender.

This recipe was made for an immersion blender.

Pasta and white beans with garlic-rosemary oil
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 medium onion, cut into big chunks
  • 1 medium carrot, in big chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, in big chunks
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 6 garlic cloves, 4 left whole, 2 finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 4 oz. baby spinach leaves, cleaned
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Coarse or kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. tomato paste (whoops)
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked, drained beans (save cooking liquid for water in recipe, if desired) or 2 15-ounce cans small white beans, rinsed
  • 1 lb. short tube pasta (I used ditalini. Elbows will work as well)
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 heaping soup spoonfuls of parmesan cheese

Puree onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and in a food processor or using an immersion blender until finely chopped. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup stock or bean cooking liquid and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Drain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer and reserve the oil. Set aside on the stovetop to keep warm.

Add beans and 2 more cups of water (or bean cooking liquid) to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside. (From SK: “I know you didn’t ask for one, but can I insert an argument for al dente pasta here? The thing is, you don’t want your pasta to fully cook in the water. If you do, it won’t have any absorbency left to drink up and become with that delicious sauce. I have really found that finishing pasta in its sauce is the single thing that most swiftly improved the quality of my pasta dishes.”)

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Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta. Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it (or use your immersion blender and give it two or three two-second pulses in the pot). Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes. Stir in parmesan cheese. Remove from heat, swirl with oil and serve hot.

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