Sunday afternoons around here are often devoted to bean cooking. We try to vary the beans: pintos, black beans, kidneys, limas, or blackeyed peas. I think my favorite are white beans, in any shape or form: cannellini, giant lima, Great Northern or small flageolet beans.
Yesterday we cooked Great Northern beans, which are very similar to cannellini or white kidney beans. When the beans were almost done, I scooped a couple cups out and made this: Mashed White Beans with Spinach and Olives. It was wonderful, made exactly as the recipe describes (albiet with beans cooked from dried rather than canned).
With the rest of the beans, I drew inspiration from the previous night's dish, but added some sliced seitan sausage I'd made a few days ago. (From this recipe, with spices of my choosing.) I also left out the spinach and olives, and served the beans with spaghetti, thus creating a seitan Pasta e Fagioli.
I would recommend using dried beans rather than canned, since you just don't get the flavor and the creaminess in canned beans that you do when you cook them from dried. I also have been breaking my dried beans rule and adding salt before cooking, which results in perfectly cooked beans. Who knew.
White Beans with Seitan Sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves smoked garlic, or regular garlic, minced
2 links seitan sausage or other vegan sausage, sliced
2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, Great Northern, or other similar sized beans)
1 cup vegetable broth
2-3 thyme sprigs
2-3 oregano sprigs
red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper, to taste
olive oil, to drizzle
spaghetti or pasta of your choice
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and the sausage. Sauté for a minute or two, then add the beans and the broth, the herbs, and the red pepper flakes. Check for seasonings and add salt and black pepper to taste.
Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, adding water or broth if necessary. You want a creamy, thick consistency but with enough sauce to cling to pasta.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Serve the beans over the pasta, with a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
Note: Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten, which as far as I know is not available in the UK. I get mine from the US when I have visitors or via the mail. (Bob's Red Mill offers it online if there's not a health food store in your area that carries it.) You can also make it using regular flour, but it's a lengthy process and involves rinsing the flour to separate out the gluten. (For some reason, seitan is sold in France but I don't know where they get their gluten.) The recipe I've linked to is the best recipe I've found for seitan sausages. Do try it if you can get vital wheat gluten.
Two cups beans in the recipe is about 1/3 of a 1 lb package of beans. Use the rest for something else, or freeze them. Beans freeze very well, and taste much better than canned.