Tuna cannellini bean salad is a great meal for those days when you just don’t feel like “cooking.” Maybe you got home late from work, or you’ve been out running errands all day, or it’s just too hot to fuss. This meal requires nothing more complicated than opening a few cans, sprinkling some seasonings, and a little bit of chopping. Easy.
Everything comes straight from your pantry. The beans are canned, the tuna is canned, and the only fresh ingredient you need is some scallions, and maybe the lemon juice. Even that isn’t essential; if you don’t have scallions, use onion instead. If you’re out of fresh lemons, the bottled juice will do just fine.
If you do have the time and energy, this is a bit better with freshly cooked beans. The canned beans tend to be slightly mushy, and sometimes they’re a little salty. If you go the dried bean route, use my quick soak method to speed things up. If not, no harm, no foul.
The recipe is enough for two lunches or one dinner (depending how hungry you are). I usually find that I eat a whole 5 oz. can of tuna for lunch if I just make ordinary tuna salad, but adding the beans stretches it enough for two meals.
I’ve adapted it slightly from one of Pierre Franey’s Sixty Minute Gourmet cookbooks. I reduced the quantity and eliminated the parsley (never had any use for parsley). This is not only better than sixty minutes, it only takes about ten.
Serve with some fresh fruit and you have a fast lunch in under fifteen minutes. Add crusty bread to that and you have dinner.
I should probably refer to this pasta e fagioli soup as “blizzard soup.” The forecast called for up to 20 inches of snow (though we only got seven). I was determined to keep the stove going and get a batch of hot soup. Besides, there is more snow coming tomorrow!
Therefore, I deliberately made this the “hard” way. First, I soaked the beans overnight. Then I cooked the beans and sort of followed a recipe from The New York Times. I cut it in half and added pancetta (don’t know why they left that out).
I even made my own vegetable stock. If you spot potatoes and carrots in the photo, it’s because they were in the homemade vegetable stock recipe . Neither one is traditional for pasta e fagioli soup, but I left them in anyway. Why toss perfectly good veggies? I didn’t include them in the recipe here though.
You can use vegetable stock, or chicken stock if you prefer. I would have made chicken stock but I didn’t have enough chicken bones. And I certainly wasn’t going out to get some in a blizzard!
Don’t be put off by the long prep time on this recipe. That includes soaking the beans overnight. You can speed this up by using my quick soak method. That cuts the soaking time down from 8 hours to only one.
If you’re really in a hurry, and don’t have the time or patience to soak and cook the beans for an hour or more, use a can of white cannellini beans instead. Make the beans, then add that to the rest of the soup. You won’t have to wait while the beans cook.
Pour the soaked beans, along with the water, into a large pot (a Dutch oven will do nicely).
Add the onion and turn the heat to medium. Bring it to a soft boil (bubbling slowly,).
You may see foam rising to the top. You can remove that with a spoon (it's not harmful, it's just not attractive).
Add the garlic and the bay leaf (you can put the bay leaf in a tea ball so it's easier to remove).
Simmer the beans for 30 minutes.
Add salt to taste and let the beans cook another hour. Check to see that they're soft. If not, cook another half an hour.
Taste the beans and add more salt if needed. Take out the bay leaf. Drain the beans with a colander over a bowl. Keep the broth, you'll use it for the soup.
Heat oil in dutch oven. Add the onion and cook for five minutes or until the onion softens.
Add the rosemary, garlic, and pancetta.
Cook for a minute. The scent should start to waft through your kitchen.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper
Cook for 5-10 minutes.
Add the bean broth you set aside, and the stock.
Add the bouquet garni, Manchego rinds, and more salt.
Turn the heat to medium-high until the soup boils. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer for half an hour.
Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until it's al dente.
Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
Remove the cheese rinds and serve.
Use dried beans if you have them, and have the time. If not, this works with canned beans too. If you use canned beans, drain the can first. Place the beans, water, and the remaining ingredients from the bean recipe in your pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. Then move on to the rest of the soup.
You can tie the bouquet garni ingredients together (if you use fresh herbs). If not, put them in a tea ball. It makes it easier to remove them.
Substitutions and Variations for Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Save time and use canned beans
Try different kinds of beans: pinto, kidney, or cranberry
Use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock
Use bacon or pork fat instead of pancetta (I even used soppressata salami once)
Add one potato (cut into chunks) to the soup
Chop up a handful of spinach and add that with the pasta
I spotted this white bean salad with sun dried tomatoes when I was shopping. It sounded delicious: beans, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, spinach. Healthy and tasty!
The price was a bit of a turn off though: $8.00 a pound?! For beans? Nope. I had dry beans at home, but it was too hot to start cooking them. So, I trotted over to the canned beans section. Instead of $8.00 a pound, I got a whole can of beans for 88 cents (on sale!). Score!
The rest was easy (and no cooking needed on a hot day).
Just soak the sun dried tomatoes, pour the beans into a bowl, roughly chop the spinach, chop some onion, and let it sit for a while to let the flavor develop.
A friend’s mom made this black beans and rice recipe for me many years ago on Thanksgiving. We had the traditional turkey, and also a slow-cooked pork roast that was divine. The beans were so good I asked her to have her mom send me the recipe.
The great thing about this is that you feel you’re eating something rich and luxurious, even though it’s a “budget” meal. This particular recipe is also vegetarian. Of course, if you want, you can add some pork or bacon in with the seasoning mixture and cook that before you combine it all with the beans.
It’s also versatile. Cook it down more and you have black beans and rice. Cook a bit less and you end up with black bean soup.
The recipe here is portioned to be a substantial main dish for dinner (or two lunches). Or, use it for two side dishes.
There are two ingredients in it that are a bit unusual for black beans and rice (at least unusual to me): balsamic vinegar and port. You just use a little of each, but it adds an extra depth of flavor which wouldn’t be there otherwise.
I don’t usually have port, so I used brandy instead.
I nearly always get the dried black beans instead of the canned ones. The canned beans tend to have extra salt and additives to “keep them fresh” (which never made sense to me; canned food should last without preservatives). Besides the dried beans are a better value and will last indefinitely.
It does take a bit of time to make this (not so much because of the cooking as because of soaking the dried beans). However, you can just let them soak overnight or use my quick soak method. Or, if you’re in a big hurry, use canned beans. Half the can should do it.
I used leftover rice that I already had. If you don’t have leftover rice, start the rice while the bean and onion mixture is simmering.
The reports of arsenic in standard rice make me a bit nervous. Also, this rice is just delicious. It isn’t jasmine rice (though they have that too), but it tastes like it. And it’s not expensive either. Actually, sometimes the bags of regular rice in the store cost more!
If you’ve got the space for it, a pressure cooker will make preparing beans a whole lot faster (it’s also good for split pea soup). Pressure cookers used to be tricky to use (my grandpa made a terrible mess once when he opened it too soon – pea soup everywhere!), but they’ve gotten a lot easier. The pressure gauge on this one is marked for high or low pressure, steam release, and off. If you forget to soak your beans you can cook them with this in about 20 minutes, instead of an hour, plus the waiting time. It’s also dishwasher-safe.
I have been making my spicy stovetop chili recipe the same way for years — until last week that is. There was a blizzard raging outside and I figured chili would keep me (and the apartment warm). The recipe has evolved since I first started making it, but I’ve been consistently using kidney beans, green and red bell peppers and threw in some chopped jalapeños and a couple of spoonfuls of salsa.
However, I didn’t have any of those ingredients on hand and had no intention of going outside to get them! So, I improvised. Instead of kidney beans I used cooked small white beans (which I had leftover from making this delicious garlicky bean dip). If you don’t have soaked beans ready, use this quick soaking method to speed up the process, or just use half a can.
That solved the bean problem, but there was still the question of adding more heat. I did have plenty of sriracha sauce and ground cayenne, so I used that and added a pinch of cinnamon to balance it out.
The chili came out so well I think I may make it this way going forward. Less chopping!
This makes about 3 or four servings. You can make it for company, eat it several times in one week, or freeze individual portions for later use.
Spicy stovetop chili you can have ready in a little over an hour.
2T vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb grass-fed beef*
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1T chili powder
1/2 cup white beans (soaked and cooked), or about 1/2 can
2 squirts sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp dried coriander
1 generous pinch cayenne powder
1 generous pinch ground cinnamon
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook on low heat until soft.
Add the garlic. Cook stirring for a minute or two.
Add the meat and brown, stirring so it browns evenly.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and the beans. Add the sriracha and the spices.
Simmer on low heat about 60 minutes.
Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve in bowls, and top with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.
*I used grass-fed beef because I think it tastes better. If you can't get it, or you disagree, use the regular kind.
Also, if the tomatoes are a bit sour, add a pinch of sugar.
Substitutions and Variations for Spicy Stovetop Chili Recipe
use kidney beans instead of white beans
replace the sriracha with Tabasco sauce
add a teaspoon or two of salsa
add jalapeño peppers to taste
add about 1/4 each red and green bell pepper about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time (so they keep a bit of crunch)
use 2/3 pound beef and 1/3 lb. pork
Calphalon Stainless Steel Dutch Oven, 5-quart Dutch ovens are great for chili, for large pots of pasta (or pasta sauce). They can be used on the stove or in the oven for baking. This one has a glass lid (which I like because you can see if the water is boiling without getting a facefull of steam. It also has measuring lines (to make it easy to tell how much water or food you’ve added, as well as a built-in colander (handy for pouring out the water when you make pasta).
The Chili Cookbook If you really love chili, and are willing to be creative with it, this is a great resource. It’s got chili with ingredients you might not normally associate with chili, as well as lots of classics. There’s different sorts of beans (or no beans at all), vegetarian options, even one with lobster and corn! There are also recipes for huevos rancheros and even instructions on making your own chorizo. I better stop now, I’m about to start drooling over my keyboard.
I’ve mind melded two lentil soup recipes for this and added a few variations to make lentil bean sausage soup. I was going to make bean and sausage soup but looked in the cupboard and found I was woefully short on beans. There just weren’t enough to make anything with. But, I did have more lentils. And, a friend was talking about the bean, sausage, and potato soup she was making.
That gave me an idea. Bean, lentil, potato, and sausage, plus a bit of manchego rind for some savor (I’ve always wanted to try that, and I had a big bag of rinds in the fridge).
Manchego, parmesan, and romano cheese rinds are great, by the way, for soup or for grating cheese when there’s plenty left on the rind, but not enough to serve.
The nice thing about lentils is that unlike beans, you don’t have to soak them first to use them.
If you only have lentils, skip the beans entirely. If you only have beans, use my quick soak method to speed up the process.
Tea strainers are great for tea, but they also have a second use for making soup and other recipes. Many recipes call for cheesecloth (which I’ve never seen in a store, and seems wasteful anyway). Instead, I use the tea ball for bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, and herb mixtures that have to be added (and then removed) from soup or other recipes. Because, who wants to bite down into a peppercorn?!
The New York Times Cook Book This cookbook was the source for part of the recipe. I have had my copy so long it’s falling apart. The soup section includes lentil, split pea, and the savory tomato soup which is the basis for my dad’s secret soup recipe.
The Silver Palate Cookbook I’m on my second copy of this, and it’s time for a third! The other half of the soup recipe comes from the bean and sausage soup in this cookbook. The peasant vegetable is also wonderful, as is the six onion soup. Actually, I’ve never had a bad recipe from this one. Plus there are suggestions and variations for many of the recipes, which I like.
The first time I made this Moroccan chicken and bean soup it was “surprise soup.” It was a cold day, and I looked around in my fridge, saw beans, chicken, and carrots, and thought, there must be a soup in here someplace! So, I started paging through my cookbooks. I found a recipe for Hariza, which is Morrocan bean and vegetable soup, in The Book of Jewish Food (a wonderful cookbook which is part recipes and part travelogue). The recipe called for lamb (but I had no lamb in the fridge) and lentils (no lentils in the pantry), but I figured I could adjust it.
I replaced the lamb with chicken and the lentils with white beans. The carrots, well they had to wait for another day.
I used soaked beans (since I already had them; you can use a can instead, or try my quick soak method to speed up the process.
It’s technically spring as I type this, but at 57 degrees it sure doesn’t feel like it. Time for soup!
Moroccan inspired chicken soup with beans and vegetables.
3 T canola oil
1 lb. chicken thighs (about 3 or 4)
4 cups water
1/2 can beans, or 3/4 C dried beans, soaked overnight (or use the quick soak method)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp black pepper
16 oz can tomatoes, crushed
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
pinch turmeric or saffron
1//4 C flour
2 oz. thin noodles, like vermicelli or angel hair, broken in quarters
1/2 tsp dried coriander
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Heat 1 T of the canola (or other neutral oil) in a large pot Add the chicken pieces and brown, turning occasionally, for five minutes.
Add the water, and bring the pot to a boil. Remove any scum that rises to the top.
Now add the beans to the pot.
In a separate frying pan, cook the onions in the oil until they brown.
Season the soup with salt and pepper and bring it to a simmer, cooking about 1 1/2 hours.
Add the tomatoes, jalapeno, ginger and turmeric. If the soup boils down too much and gets too thick, add more water to bring it to the right consistency.
Mix the flour with a bit of cold water, to make a paste. Add the flour paste to the soup, stirring so it doesn't clump together. It should thicken the soup and make it "velvety. (think velveting chicken in Chinese cooking). Now add the pasta and simmer it another 15 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Add the coriander and the lemon juice.
If you used bone-in thighs (and you should for more flavor), let the soup cool for a minute or two and pull out the bones.
Pour the soup into bowls and serve, or package into individual portions and freeze.
You can substitute lamb and lentils for the chicken and beans, or switch the pasts with rice.
I have a similar pot in a smaller size, but I really lust after the bigger one. Mine also doesn’t have the built-in strainer (which seems very handy). It does have the glass lid, which is great because I can easily see how close the food is to boiling without lifting the lid and getting a face full of steam. It’s great for soup or chili or a big pot of pasta when company is coming. Frontier Turmeric Root Ground, 1.92-Ounce Bottle Turmeric is related to ginger and has a warm, peppery flavor. Like ginger, it can be savory or sweet, and can be used in both dinner and dessert recipes. It’s great in soups, on chicken, lamb, or mixed in with scrambled eggs. It’s also an anti-inflammatory.
Waiting for dried beans to soak overnight can be a real pain (especially if you’re hungry). You can, of course, buy them in cans, but the canned beans often have extra salt and/or preservatives in them.
Luckily, there is a way to speed up the process, which cuts the time from eight hours to only one and change. Much better!
Quick Soaking Beans
Here’s all you have to do. Just measure out the amount of beans you need. Put them in a large saucepan and cover them with water (about an inch or two over the top of the beans). Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Let the beans boil for two minutes.
Turn off the heat, and allow them to rest for an hour.