Whistle while you work…. Penne, navy beans and pine nuts.


Ever since I realized how easy it is to make my own pasta sauce from scratch, I never went back to buying the jarred stuff. It’s so expensive, plus I like being able to customize my sauces (cream or no cream? Basil or thyme? Or both? Or red peppers? Or aubergines? Should I roast the sauce, or not? Etc.). Anyway, I was stuck at a software workshop allll day Saturday, and by the time I got home it was past 3pm, and I hadn’t eaten a bite. I was ravenous, and a wee bit hungover. I had to eat something right away, or else. So I whipped up some pasta with marinara, and I’m still feasting on the leftovers. The dish took me less than 30 minutes. Take that, Rachel Ray!

Also, this is a great ‘customize’ dish. Want a different bean? I picked navy beans because I love how creamy and silky they make the tomato sauce — mash some of them up, and it becomes the most velvety (and insanely healthy) sauce. Want more vegetables? Squash would be lovely here. For a texture contrast, I bet chard would be great, too. If you using meat, some boneless, skinless chicken thighs would add a really rich flavor. Cheese Louise, maybe some silken tofu? The possibilities are endless! Make it your own! Eat the pasta joyfully! Throw out your scale! Damn the man! Save the empire! Ahem. Sorry. Got caught up in my rhetoric there. Let’s move on, shall we?


Penne with navy beans, toasted pine nuts and spicy tomato sauce.

1/2 pound penne (I would recommend whole wheat pasta, but I was out, so I used the plain old bleached white stuff)
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
15 oz. can cannelli, or navy, beans (no salt added, plz)
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced finely
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 thyme springs
2-3 medium sized dried bay leaves
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil (I really like the flavor blend of the fats, personally)

For garnishes:
1/8 cup raw pine nuts
basil, torn
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmigianno reggiano (no idea how to spell that, natch)
salt and pepper

So simple, right? Let’s get started. Throw the diced onion into a hot skillet with the oil and butter. Let the onions sweat out, without too much caramelization. Deeply inhale. That’s the stuff.

Add garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir.

Add the crushed tomatoes and let it bring to a boil, and then take down to a verrrry gentle simmer. Add the dried oregano, bay leaves, and thyme. Oh, I also found some rosemary hidden in my fridge, which I added as a very fine chop. You’ll noticed I didn’t use the typical trio of aromatics, which I would normally do (i.e., add carrots and celery with the onion). That is because I had no celery. And was too lazy to dice carrots. And I don’t have an immersion blender, and I wanted this to be a pretty smooth sauce, which it wouldn’t have been, had I added more aromatics. Anyway.

Let that simmer for 10-20 minutes. Inhale again. Lick your wooden spoon a lot. I highly recommend it.

Bring pot of (well salted) water to boil. When the water comes to a boil, throw in the pasta and cook until al dente. That is, with bite. For me, this means undercooking by at least 3-5 minutes. I hate mushy pasta.

Right when you throw in the pasta, add a can of cannelli beans to the tomato sauce. I washed and realllly well rinsed my beans, because I didn’t want to add more moisture to the sauce than I had to. Stir them around and let them heat up. After a few minutes, mash up about half the can into the sauce, roughly. The sauce will get gorgeously colored and silky smooth. And taste fantastic.

When the pasta is finished, dump and let drain. I do NOT rinse my pasta – EVER – as it washes away the starches and makes it harder for sauces to adhere, which is muy annoying.

Add pasta to your skillet and gently fold to incorporate sauce.

Top with torn basil leaves, tons of toasted pine nuts, and a healthy amount of shaved cheese. I save half to sprinkle on top, and I stir the other half directly into the pasta to boost the flavor.

Spoon into bowls. Admire. This dish is so healthy and super-filling. It would be better paired with, say, a spinach or escarole salad, but it’s good as an easy lunch, too. Note: Your pasta will not look weirdly red as it inexplicably does in my photos. I feel like my camera has a weird red filter on it, but I don’t know how to take it off. So, ignore weird submarine lighting. That is all.


Manchego Mama.


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