I’ve been obsessed with combining beans and pasta for about a year now. Like the classic pasta e fagioli, this is such a delicious combination. Any time I make macaroni and want to top it with something other than marinara sauce (which is my husband AJ’s favorite, and his go-to meal when I haven’t planned anything in advance), I almost always end up finding some way to add beans.
I usually go for the cannellini variety because I feel that their flavor and texture lends itself to pasta in general, but I’m working on finding some way to use red beans and black beans as well. We’ll see what I come up with.
I first came up with this recipe in the summer on a week when our CSA veggie box came pretty well-stocked. It’s been a bit hit or miss at times, since we’re relying on the weather and local seasonality while supporting our local farms, but this one was definitely good. Along with some stone fruit, artichokes, and some beets was a giant bag of the spiciest arugula I’ve ever had, and a giant zucchini. I mean giant.
So, I decided to grill that zucchini (you can do this on an indoor griddle, or on the BBQ), threw in some tomatoes, a few cloves of fresh garlic, and a can of white beans. Just a few simple ingredients and you’ve got a meal!
I’ve also become a huge fan of gigli pasta (pronounce kind of like GEE-ghee). Also known as campanelle, gigli is Italian for “lilies” and they are shaped like ruffled flower blossoms. I actually originally planned to make this with orzo, but I saw this pasta at the grocery store and couldn’t pass it up.
I do think the chunkier noodles work best with this; orzo wouldn’t have been the best choice due to the bulk of the other ingredients. If you can’t find gigli, stick with a larger noodle, such as rotini or farfalle.
You may have never browned beans before, but I’m telling you, it is good. You want to cook them on the stove, stirring only every so often until they start to get a bit crisp on the outside. Yum-um-um.
Then you’ll remove the pan from the heat and toss in your fresh herbs and arugula – this way the leaves get wilted and cooked just enough to really amp up the flavor. Pile it up on a plate, add some Parmesan cheese if you want, and dig in!Print
A quick and light summer pasta recipe featuring grilled zucchini, irresistible browned white beans, and ripe tomatoes. Perfect for dinner out on the porch!
- 1 lb gigli pasta*
- 2 Tbsp butter, vegan or otherwise
- 1 giant zucchini, or 2–3 medium zucchini
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano**
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme**
- salt and pepper
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup torn arugula leaves
- Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander and briefly rinse with cool water, then return to the pot. Add the butter and mix in.
- While the pasta cooks, slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch rounds. Cook on an indoor griddle (I used my cast iron one) or out on the barbecue. Cook one side for a few minutes until nicely browned, then flip and cook the other side.
- While the zucchini and the noodles cook, start the beans. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, then add the beans. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until nicely browned on all sides. Add the minced garlic, cook for 30 seconds, and remove from the heat. Add the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper.
- Toss the zucchini and bean mixture with the tomatoes, arugula, and pasta, and top with Parmesan if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
*If you can’t find gigli or campanelle noodles, rotini or farfalle would also work.
**If you don’t have fresh herbs, dried will also work. Use 2 tsp dried oregano and 1/2 tsp dried thyme. Add them to the skillet when the beans are about halfway through cooking.
What about you? Do you have any suggestions for a healthier pasta recipe? Let us know in the comments below! And tell us what you think of this dish by rating the recipe at the same time!
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Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on May 21st, 2014. Last updated: November 11, 2020 at 15:18 pm.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Raquel Smith
Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).