Happy Valentine’s Day! We keep things pretty low-key around here. Dan and I went out for a dinner date 10 days early so that we could avoid the crazy restaurant scene tonight. And I already have my Valentine’s Day gift: a fully cleaned kitchen, scrubbed from top to bottom. I came home from New York City on Sunday to a trail of Post-It notes directing me to the kitchen, where Dan had scrubbed the counters and cabinets, cleaned the sink, gotten some of the discoloration off the outside of my tea kettle and made the stove top sparkle. This last one was a particular feat considering the marmalade overflow that occurred the afternoon before I left that I didn’t have time to clean up.
For Dan’s gift, I am making us a fancy meal at home: spaghetti carbonara, just like we had in Italy. Spinach and goat cheese salad. Cookie dough egg rolls, just like our wedding “cake.” And two types of Italian wine: a Nebbiolo to go with dinner, and a Moscato d’Asti to go with dessert. I don’t have photos of the carbonara yet (and might have to make it twice so I don’t have to worry about photos tonight), but I do have another pasta dish to share!
Beans and pasta sounded like such a strange combination. It just seemed like it would be too much starch and lacking in flavor. But I kept seeing recipes everywhere — La Cucina, the hefty tome of Italian cooking that was a gift two Christmases ago, then Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rock Star.
So with a pint container full of pinto beans just waiting to be mixed into dinner, I decided to give it a shot. Sautéed carrots and onions and garlic, then diced pancetta, then fully cooked beans made for a silky, flavorful pasta sauce.
This recipe works best with small pasta noodles that are not much larger than the beans themselves. I used Gemelli, a short, twisted pasta, but you could also use cavatappi or fusili. You could even use penne, though I like the way the other, more twisted shapes hold on to the sauce.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/2" dice
- 2 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans
- 8 ounces dried pasta (about 2 2/3 cup), see headnote
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the pancetta and cook until it is crispy, turning it occasionally so that all the sides get browned.
- Stir in the beans and reduce the heat to as low as you can get it.
- In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the 1/4 cup water, remaining tablespoon of oil and the pasta to the beans and bring the heat back up to medium. Toss well to coat all the pasta with the sauce.
- Cook for about five minutes, just until everything is heated through. Serve.