Saturday, January 30, 2010

Penne Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with Black Beans)

I have finished my first week of staging Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace for The Juilliard School’s spring concert, and in five short days, I’ve already been inspired by the work of these twelve gorgeous dancers. Diligent, curious, and so strong, they are not only eager to learn the steps and the particular way of moving involved in a Cunningham work, but also about the philosophies of Merce Cunningham and John Cage, and after a productive first week, I am confident that they will inhabit the piece with animal grace and integrity.

I was busy all week reviewing notes, DVDs, learning steps, and then transmitting them in nightly rehearsals, so I didn’t have much time to put together a decadent meal. I knew I would need something hearty and simple to sustain me during the week’s work, so cooked up some beautiful farmers’ market black beans, and made a strange black bean version of pasta e fagioli. Lovely it is not, but inexpensive and tasty it’s got in spades.

For easy meals after work, I kept the cooked beans separated from the cooked pasta, and then combined them and heated just as much as I wanted to eat at any given time. Later in the week I made a dill-parsley-walnut-garlic pesto and added a little bit of this to the beans, too, for a strangely delicious mix, and a bright, fresh flavor.

Penne Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with Black Beans)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced
red pepper flakes, or dried red chiles, to taste (I used a few crushed Mexican arbol chiles, because that’s what I had in the pantry)
1 1/2 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight (traditionally, this is made with white beans, but I used what I had)
water or stock
one large sprig of rosemary, chopped
one bay leaf

3/4 pound whole wheat penne pasta

pecorino di grotta, or parmigiano reggiano cheese, for grating on top

In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and cook the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and the chile flakes, and stir briefly, until fragrant.

Add the beans, and enough water or stock to cover them by about an inch and a half or two inches, depending on how soupy you’d like your dish to be. Add the rosemary and the bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat. Simmer the beans until they are tender (about an hour), and then season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, combine with the beans, and top with the grated cheese.


Greg Dickinson said...

I love cooking beans for a delicious and cheap meal that will sustain me as well. Lentils are a big favorite as well as black beans. Thanks for your post and good luck with your performance!

Banu said...

Hey, thanks, Greg! Lentils may be my personal favorite bean of all time, but black beans are right up there, too. Sweetbreads with citrus quark, huh? Sounds amazing.

Jennifer said...

I absolutely adore the picture in this post. I have to say, I have never tried pasta with black beans before, but it does look appetizing. :)

Banu said...

Thanks, Jennifer! Try it, it's pretty tasty...

Blogging To A Better Bonnie said...

I love comfort food! And on this cold snowy day, your dish looks so "comfy".
Congratulations on how well your rehearsals are going. Performing is food for the soul.

Tau-Mu said...

Practical and creative!

Dylan said...

Looks absolutely fantastic. Sprinkle on some proscuitto shavings, and it could be untouchable.

natural selection said...

Black beans are delicious and combined with pasta a great idea especially for a quick lunch! need to re-stock on the black the touch of "large" sprig of rosemary.

Banu said...


Dylan said...

It goes well on everything!

Bo said...

Yum...I love all pasta dishes!

Fritz Bogott said...

> staging Merce Cunningham’s
> Summerspace

Good god. You have the strength of ten lumberjacks. Can I get you some raw steak and a large glass of whiskey?

>ugly color

I agree that cooking with black beans requires a degree of teeth-gritting and/or defiance. Or blindfolds.

sanjeet said...

Thanks for your post and good luck with your performance!

Work from home India

Banu said...

Oh, thank you, Fritz. Yeah, raw steak, and how did you know bourbon has been my winter treat?

Chef E said...

Yes the photo is stunning! The dish I would die for, since I only eat pasta a few time a month, and now I want it, after already eating dinner!

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