Skillet Beans: Pasta e Fagioli

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When I was growing up, we ate a lot of frozen spinach.  My dad had really strong opinions about it, whether it should be chopped and how it should be eaten.  I actually can't remember now whether he loved or hated chopped frozen spinach but he very clearly only wanted one.  Dad, are you out there?  What kind of frozen spinach do you like?

EDIT:  Here's what my dad commented about spinach.

For the record, I do indeed have strong opinions about spinach. I believe it is the only vegetable that is better in its frozen form - after cooking of course - than fresh. But I deplore it in its frozen and chopped form. It MUST be frozen, LEAF spinach, otherwise it's just a waste. Love it plain, with eggs, in quiches - wherever. It stands up to cooking much better than fresh and is better tasting and has a much better mouth feel than its fresh, cooked counterpart, which cooks down so much that one has to use great amounts of it to get a decent serving.

For a long time I tried to keep fresh spinach in my own young adult/college/train wreck home. Normally, I would eat about half of it and then it would go bad an I would have to compost it with a healthy twinge of guilt like a good liberal young woman.  I finally realized, though, that I was eating very little of it uncooked, so there was no reason that I shouldn't just keep a bag of frozen spinach in my freezer and use it for the same purpose but with far less waste.  And so I began the chapter of my life called "Adulthood".  (Just kidding.)

This recipe was born from my dinner rut of eating frozen spinach sauteed with chili flakes and half a can of white beans directly out of my cast iron skillet.  I call this masterpiece "Skillet Beans" and it has started to take over my life, if I'm gonna be honest with you.  So I started experimenting, trying to figure out what I could do with 1 can of beans and 1 skillet.  This is the first in a few installments of skillets beans, which will be great, simple, wonderful weeknight dinners based on a can of bean and a single skillet.

If you ask my roommate what I eat, she'll tell you that I like to put a bunch of stuff in a bowl and then cover it with cheese, which is true.  She doesn't eat cheese (or so she says) so she thinks this is very odd.  Once, she made fun of me for having an entire drawer of cheeses, which I found very surprising.  The more cheese the better, right?  Help me out here.  This recipe falls into the food/bowl/cheese area of my expertise.

Are you in a dinner rut and if so can you share?  Thanks.  One man's dinner rut is another woman's inspiration.

One Pot PASta E Fagioli

45 minutes. Serves 3, generously.  Adapted from The New York Times.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 pinch dried rosemary
  • 2 cups Lacinato kale, sliced into ribbons
  • 14 oz jar of chopped tomatoes, not drained
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2-3 parmesan rinds
  • 1 1/2 cup pipe rigate pasta or other small, tubular shape
  • 1 can white beans (great northern beans)

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, high-sided skillet or dutch oven.  Add onions and cook 2 minutes, stirring until soft.  Add garlic and rosemary and continue stirring until you can smell the garlic. Add kale and continue stirring for about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes and stir, cooking for about 10 minutes until kale has softened and tomatoes have reduced significantly.  Stir in chicken brother, tomato paste, red pepper and parmesan rinds.  Taste, adding salt and pepper to your preference.  

Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add pasta and beans.  Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, shaking pan or pot occasionally to cook pasta evenly.  When the pasta is cooked, remove from heat, season once more with salt and pepper and parmesan, and enjoy your one bowl/one skillet meal.