Pasta with Beans

James Beard

Author and Educator

“This is the heartiest dish imaginable, just the thing for a cold winter night. It’s one of those unrefined peasant dishes that deliver a lot of taste, satisfaction, and protein for relatively little cost. Serve with good bread and a simple strong red wine.” –James Beard


  • 1 pound dry white beans such as pea, navy, or Great Northern, or one 16 ounce can white beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 16 ounce can tomatoes in puree or 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup bean liquid
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheese, grated
  • Parsley, chopped


If you use dried beans, cover them with cold water, bring to a boil, cook 2 minutes, and then remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour. If you use canned beans, merely drain them and set them aside, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid.

Continue cooking beans over medium heat till they are just tender. Drain. Reserve some of the liquid for the sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy casserole and sauté the bacon strips until they are half cooked. Add the onions, carrots, parsley, oregano, and basil, and cook until the vegetables are wilted. Add the tomatoes, bean liquid, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the drained cooked beans and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile cook and drain the macaroni. Toss with bits of the butter and grated cheese, and then mix with the bean sauce and a little of the bean liquid. Serve in heated bowls, and sprinkle more cheese and chopped parsley on top.


6 to 8 servings