Beans and greens pasta is a tasty, adaptable formula for countless plant-based dinners!
With all of the exhaustion going around, it’s an especially good time for easy, adaptable meal templates.
This vegan beans and greens pasta is a riff on the reliable “a green, bean, a grain” formula. Here, the beans and greens are whatever you like, and pasta is the grain.
I can’t get enough of this dinner right now. It satisfies my constant pandemic year craving for comfort food and my desire for nourishing ingredients at the same time.
The pasta is also a vehicle for favorite toppings and flourishes. My go-to cashew parmesan cheese is folded into the recipe itself. Most of the time, I simply add more of that as garnish. But the recipe would be great with vegan feta, toasted pine nuts, or a slew of other fun toppings.
Best of all, this pasta is ready quickly. It requires very little planning, which makes it a perfect meal for these disorienting times.
Typically, I’m pretty organized with my meal prep. Lately, not so much. I’m learning that I can feel completely scattered and still manage to eat well.
Why Beans & Greens are a Perfect Pasta Addition
It’s not hard to love a pasta dinner. Pasta is filling, comforting, and it cooks quickly.
The downside of a pasta meal is that it doesn’t always provide the nutritional balance that I care about so much, both as a dietitian and for my own well-being.
Beans and greens pasta is a good example of how an added protein and some vegetables can quickly turn pasta into a complete meal.
Most wheat pasta has some protein, but not quite enough to qualify as a great protein source. Here, beans help to amplify the plant-protein in the meal. At the same time, they add fiber, calcium (depending on the bean), and iron.
Greens, meanwhile, add all of the nutrient-density that leafy greens are famous for. This includes vitamins A, C, K, and vitamins in the B family, phytonutrients associated with disease prevention, fiber, and calcium.
Finally, beans and greens quickly transform this meal into a power plate. A leafy green salad is a nice compliment to the dish and will make it more satisfying. But you don’t need to serve it with a complicated array of sides for it to feel fulsome.
It’s easy to run through the ingredients of the beans and greens pasta. They are, in no particular order:
Pick your favorite legume and run with it! The dish will work with any of the following:
- White beans (navy, great northern, or cannellini)
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Cranberry beans
- Kidney beans
- Gigante beans
- Lima beans
I make the recipe with 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans, which is the equivalent of what you’ll find in a 14.5-ounce can of beans. If you cook from scratch, then you can simply use 1 1/2-2 cups total.
Once again, so many good options here. I’ve made (and loved) the recipe with the following:
- Curly kale
- Dinosaur kale
- Collard greens
- Broccoli rabe
Swiss chard, beet greens, and mustard greens are additional options. You can be a bit flexible with the amount of greens that you use. I’d say that a standard sized bunch of any of these options is fine.
Be sure to wash, dry, and chop your greens before adding them.
In spite of the fact that the beans and greens pasta doesn’t contain any cream, it still tastes flavorful and satisfying. Broth is part of what helps to create flavor in the recipe. I use vegetable broth most of the time, but a vegan chicken-style broth will work, too.
I also like to cook the pasta with a splash of white wine. It helps to build some flavor and will let off a wonderful aroma as the pasta cooks. I use half a cup. If you don’t have white wine at home or prefer to omit it, it’s no big deal.
Vegan parmesan cheese is also key to achieving a flavorful pasta dish without too many ingredients.
I like to use the cashew parmesan that’s nearly always in my fridge. But I often make and store walnut parmesan and hemp seed parmesan, too.
Alternatively, there are a number of really tasty, store-bought vegan parmesan options. The Violife brand makes a great one. I’m also a fan of the parmesan shreds from Follow Your Heart.
Can’t forget the pasta in this pasta meal! Use your pasta of choice. I usually keep a bunch of shapes in my pantry for fun: trumpets, casarecce, radiatori, reginetti, fusilli, orechiette, and rigatoni, to name a few.
For added fiber, you can choose a whole wheat pasta variety (these are some of my favorites). A legume pasta, such as red lentil or chickpea pasta, will add protein to the recipe.
For gluten-free eaters, quinoa and brown rice pasta are good options.
Preparation, storage, and reheating
The preparation process for the beans and greens pasta can be sped up if you wash/chop your greens and cook (or rinse) your beans ahead of time.
I think this particular pasta tastes best right after cooking. Since I live alone, however, I usually end up leftovers. That’s just fine! You can store the pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
I reheat the pasta in my microwave when I’m feeling lazy, but it tastes even better when I reheat it in a pot or pan with a little splash of vegetable broth.
Pick your toppings
While simplicity is part of what I love about this meal, I’m not opposed to livening it with some fun toppings. Here are fifteen of the ones I like best:
- Toasted pine nuts
- Fresh, chopped herbs
- Tempeh or seitan bacon
- Vegan feta
- Cashew cheese
- Caramelized onions
- Vegan sausage, sliced or crumbled
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Nutritional yeast
- Vegan beef-style crumbles
- Lemon zest
- Oven-dried tomatoes
- Toasted breadcrumbs
Other meals with beans and greens
If the idea of a simple meal with beans and greens is calling to you, but this pasta isn’t it, there are so many other options. I plan many of my meals around greens, beans, and grains. Here are some favorites:
- Grain, green and bean skillet with yum sauce
- Cumin spiced lentils and rice with tahini dressing
- Great big pot of braised beans and kale
- Savory steel cut oatmeal
- Turmeric rice, beans and greens
- Rice, beans, tofu and greens
- Coconut brown rice, black beans, and sweet potato
- Turmeric chickpea oats
- 8 ounces pasta of choice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot, chopped (substitute 1/3 cup chopped onion)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch greens of choice, such as broccoli rabe, collard greens, kale, or escarole, stemmed, washed, dried, and chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups cooked beans (1 14.5-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
- 3 tablespoons cashew parmesan cheese (substitute a store-bought vegan parmesan cheese)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus extra for salting the water and seasoning to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
- Optional toppings of choice (see list above)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. Cook according to package instructions, until the pasta is tender but still a little al dente. Drain the pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and give everything a stir. Add the greens in handfuls, stirring as you go.
- When the greens have wilted down a bit (about a minute), add the white wine. Cook, stirring the greens, for about 3 minutes, or until the white wine has mostly reduced (you can skip this step if omitting the wine). Add the broth to the skillet.
- Allow the broth to come to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cook the greens for another 5-10 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Cooking time will depend on the type of greens you choose.
- Add the beans to the skillet, followed by the cooked pasta. Stir and heat everything through. Then, stir in the vegan parmesan and pepper to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired. Serve right away.
The cold winter months can feel long. I think that’s especially true this year.
But nourishing food is a balm. It warms us up, comforts us, and helps to brace us for the chill. I hope you’ll get as much satisfaction from this simple pasta meal as I have, friends.