A bag of beans...

Saucy Beans with Bacon and Cavolo Nero

Well they mean different things to different people, they are the punch line of many a funny story, and the basis of many nutritious and protein rich dishes.
But when you are left with a bag of beans (or in our century, a tin of beans really) Its always good to know exactly what to do with the darn things!

Using beans in pasta dishes is a brilliant way to feed many people on a budget, and because they are readily available already cooked, all you need to do is drain them and add them to the cooked sauce. Beans are very tasty and high in protein, and absorb flavours rather nicely, not adding any unnecessary layers to the dish.

When I was in Italy we would eat large amounts of this dark leafy vegetable called, Cavolo Nero, which when directly translated from Italian, is "Black Cabbage". We know it as Kale.
This broad leafed cabbage has quite a bitter taste and is the basis for the famous Tuscan stew known as "Ribollita".
I used cabbage from my garden, and you can substitute any dark leafy green such as spinach or the dark leaves of chinese or savoy cabbage, normal leafy cabbage might be slightly too sulphurous.

Omit the bacon in this recipe for a delicious vegetarian meal.

Saucy beans with Bacon and Cavolo Nero
Feeds 6

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced
200 g bacon, diced
50 g cavolo nero (or dark leaves of fresh cabbage)
2 x 410 g tins of white beans beans, drained
1 x tin (226g)  Italian plum tomatoes
5 g tomato paste
100 ml boiling water (from the pasta water)
Salt and pepper to taste

500g cooked pasta,  to serve

Heat a large frying pan on the stove and add the olive oil.

Peel and slice the red onion, and roughly chop the bacon.
Add the onion to the pan and cook for a good 5 minutes, until it starts to go translucent.
Add the bacon and fry for a further 5 to 10 minutes so it starts to crisp.
Wash the cabbage or kale very well and chiffonade (slice into strips), add this to the pan.

You can start boiling the pasta now in unsalted boiling water.

When the cabbage starts to wilt, and has changed colour to a darker brighter green, add the drained beans and stir well. Heat through, another 5 minutes and season.
Remove from the pan, and add to a bowl.

In the same sauce pan, cook the tin of tomatoes and the tomato paste together with 100ml of boiling water taken straight from the pasta boiling water. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then add the beans and bacon to heat it up again.

Toss with the pasta and serve hot.