WWhen I say I’m a fan of canned beans, I mean I’m a fan of canned beans. A friend once joked that I could write a cookbook called Doing New Things with a Can of Beans, which I almost took for a challenge. Nutritionally, they’re a powerhouse, but it’s their versatility that really gives me life. I recently figured out that you can mix up an entire can of cannellini beans to make a silky double cream replacement, great for glossy pasta sauces like the vegan one. Penne with vodka. Borlotti, on the other hand, are gorgeous and meaty when mashed with diced mushrooms and used like minced meat.
Swedish Borlotti Bean Meatballs (photo above)
Don’t be tempted to mash the beans until you forget – you want to have a thick texture – so I don’t recommend using a food processor, if you can help it. A fork or potato masher should do the trick.
Preperation 15 minutes
to cook 45 minutes
For the ‘meatballs’
1 box of 400g borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
60 g panko breadcrumbs
50 ml of boiling water
2 tablespoons of vegan broth, or broth powder
2 teaspoons vegan gravy granules (I use red Bisto, but strict vegans may prefer an alternative)
1 teaspoon Cooking pot
25g vegan butter or margarine
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
85g shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
tsp ground nutmeg
teaspoon of chilli
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
Finely chopped parsley, to serve
Lingonberry or Cranberry Sauce, to serve
For the sauce
40g vegan butter
3 tablespoons plain white flour
380 ml vegetable broth
150 ml unsweetened and unflavored soy milk
In medium bowl, mash beans with fork until each is just broken up and mixture is crumbly; do not crush it into a paste. Add breadcrumbs and toss to combine.
Put the boiling water, the stock powder, the Bisto and the Marmite in a measuring bowl and whisk gently.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion and sauté gently, stirring, for two minutes. When the chopped onion becomes translucent, add the mushrooms, fry, stirring for another eight to 10 minutes, then add salt, pepper and spices, mix and remove from heat.
Add the onions to the mashed beans, along with the Bisto and Marmite, and stir to combine. With slightly damp hands, shape the mixture into balls the size of a tablespoon and place on a plate.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Fry the balls in two batches for about 10 minutes each, turning them regularly, until lightly browned, then transfer them to a plate while you prepare the sauce.
Return the pan to medium-low heat and add the butter. Once melted, stir in the flour until you obtain a smooth dough. Gradually add the broth, beating as you go, until smooth. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens into a rich sauce. Still whisking, add the soy milk in a slow, steady stream and, once the sauce is smooth and creamy, lower the heat and return the meatballs to the pan. Simmer gently for a few minutes, stirring often to prevent the sauce from sticking, then serve with mashed potatoes or pappardelle, a pinch of fresh parsley and a little cranberry or cranberry sauce.
Penne alla vodka with cannellini cream
You will need a high speed blender to get a really smooth cannellini cream. If you don’t have one, make the beans as smooth as possible with a hand blender or food processor, then run them through a fine sieve to catch the tough skins.
Preperation 10 minutes
to cook 20 mins
1 box of 400g cannellini beans, not drained
100ml unsweetened, unflavored soy milk
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons of tomato puree
½ teaspoon of sugar
350g of pasta
70 ml of vodka
½ teaspoon of chili flakes, plus extra to serve
Salt and black pepper
300g of dried penne
1 small handle basil leaves, to finish
Put the beans and their liquid in a high speed blender with the soy milk, mix until very smooth and creamy, then set aside.
Put a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add olive oil. When hot, add onion and sauté, stirring regularly, for three to five minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for two more minutes, taking care not to let it brown.
Add the tomato puree, sugar, passata, vodka and red pepper flakes, stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer the sauce for eight to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the penne and cook according to package directions, until al dente.
Once the sauce has reduced and thickened, add the cannellini cream, season to taste and keep warm.
Once al dente, drain the pasta, reserving 150 ml of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce, lower the heat and mix. Cook, stirring and stirring often, for two minutes, adding the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce (you may not need all the water; use just enough to bring the sauce. to the desired consistency).
Serve with an extra pinch of chili flakes or freshly ground black pepper, and a scattering of torn fresh basil.