W.When I say that I’m a canned bean fan, I mean, I’m a canned bean fan. A friend once joked that I could write a cookbook called Doing New Things With a Tin of Beans, which I almost mistook for a challenge. Nutritionally they’re a powerhouse, but it’s their versatility that really gives me life. I recently found out that you can mix a whole can of cannellini beans into a silky smooth double cream substitute, ideal for shiny pasta sauces like this vegan penne alla vodka. Borlotti, on the other hand, are beautiful and meaty when pureed with diced mushrooms and used like ground beef.
Borlotti beans Swedish “meatballs” (picture above)
Don’t be tempted to mash the beans – you want them to be chunky in consistency – so I would advise against using a food processor if you can avoid it. A fork or potato masher should do the job.
preparation 15 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
For the “meatballs”
1 x 400g can Borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
60g panko breadcrumbs
50ml boiling water
2 tbsp vegan bouillon, or storage powder
2 Tea spoons vegan sauce granules (I use red bisto, but strict vegans may prefer an alternative)
1 teaspoon Marmite
25g vegan butter or margarine
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
85g shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Finely chopped Parsely, serve
Lingonberry or lingonberry sauce, serve
For the sauce
40g vegan butter
3 tbsp white flour
380ml vegetable stock
150ml unsweetened and unflavoured soy milk
In a medium bowl, mash the beans with a fork until each is just broken and the mixture is lumpy; do not crush into a paste. Add the breadcrumbs and mix.
Put the boiling water, broth, bisto and marmite in a measuring cup and stir until smooth.
Set a medium skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Once the onion is melted, add the onion and sauté, stirring, for two minutes. When the chopped onion becomes translucent, add the mushrooms, stir-fry for another 8-10 minutes, then add salt, pepper and spices, stir, and remove from heat.
Add the onions to the bean puree and stir to blend. With slightly moistened hands, shape the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and place on a plate.
Put the pan back on medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Fry the balls in two servings for about 10 minutes each, turning regularly until they are lightly browned all over, then transfer to a plate while you make the sauce.
Set the skillet on medium-low heat and add the butter. After melting, stir in the flour until a smooth paste is formed. Gradually add the broth and stir until smooth. Simmer gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens into a rich sauce. While stirring, add the soy milk in a slow, steady stream and, once the sauce is smooth and creamy, turn the heat down to low and return the meatballs to the pan. Simmer gently for a few minutes, stirring often so that the sauce doesn’t stick, then serve with mashed potatoes or pappardelle, some fresh parsley and a little cranberry or lingonberry sauce.
Penne alla vodka with cannellini cream
Penne alla vodka by Richard Makin with cannellini cream.
You need a high speed mixer to get a really smooth cannellini cream. If you don’t have any, use a hand blender or food processor to make the beans as smooth as possible, then pass through a fine sieve to catch any hard shells.
preparation 10 mins
Cook 20 minutes
1 x 400g can Cannellini beans, undrained
100ml unsweetened and unflavored soy milk
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 tbsp tomato puree
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon chilli flakes, plus extra for serving
Salt and black pepper
300g dried penne
1 small handful Basil leaves, break up
Put the beans and their liquid with the soy milk in a high-speed mixer, puree until smooth and creamy, then set aside.
Place a medium saucepan on medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and sauté, stirring regularly, for three to five minutes until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional two minutes, being careful not to turn it brown.
Add tomato puree, sugar, passata, vodka and chilli flakes, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and let the sauce simmer for eight to ten minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t get caught.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the penne and cook al dente according to the instructions on the packet.
As soon as the sauce is reduced and thickened, stir in the cannellini cream, season to taste and keep warm.
When they are al dente, drain the pasta and collect 150 ml of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce, reduce the heat and mix. Cook, toss, and stir often, for two minutes, adding the reserved pasta water as needed to dissolve the sauce (you may not need all of the water; use just enough to get the sauce to the consistency you want).
Serve with an additional pinch of chilli flakes or freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of fresh basil.