Pasta with White Bean Sauce
A cheesy creamy white sauce with a hidden ingredient -- beans! Serve hot over pasta, add cooked vegetables, or serve with grilled chicken for a delicious, filling dinner!
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 chopped jalapeno or other hot pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chicken base or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups cooked white beans (such as Great Northern) or one 15-ounce can, drained and mashed*
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Shredded Parmesan and/or fresh parsley, optional
8 ounces pasta, cooked according to package instructions
1. In a medium-large stock pot over medium heat, saute onion, cayenne or pepper, and black pepper in butter, until onion is soft. Add garlic and stir. Add the flour and stir to coat, until flour is bubbly.
2. Add the milk, water, and chicken base while whisking briskly. Continue to whisk and heat until mixture bubbles and thickens slightly.
3. Reduce heat and stir in beans, heating through. (See additional notes about blending the sauce for a smooth sauce.) Add cheese and stir until melted. Add salt to taste (we like about 1 teaspoon, but you may need less, especially if you started with canned beans!).
Serve hot sauce over freshly cooked pasta. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese or fresh parsley for garnish, if desired.
Serving suggestions: Grilled chicken or other grilled meat, cooked broccoli, cooked carrots, green salad.
Cooked Great Northern beans
*You can leave the beans whole if you prefer a chunkier sauce. I mashed mine with a potato masher before adding to the sauce. If you have an immersion blender, you can add the beans whole and blend the sauce at the end. Or, transfer to your regular blender and blend the hot sauce before serving.
This recipe was adapted from Katie Kimball's recipe for Pasta with White (Bean) Sauce in The Everything Beans Book.
This is an easy white sauce, but the flavor is impressive! The beans help thicken the sauce, while boosting the protein and fiber. There's not usually many redeeming qualities to white sauce, but this bean version made us feel semi-justified in enjoying one of my favorite meals -- pasta with white sauce!
I admit, I was pleasantly surprised at just how good this sauce recipe is! I tasted it as I made it (which did result in the addition of chicken base for a flavor boost), and was dubious as to the end result. However, in the end I thought the cheese, beans, -- everything was just right about this sauce. I do think I prefer smooth sauces, so in the future I may try blending this recipe. That said, I did still really enjoy this sauce slightly-chunky (mashed beans)!
I don't usually serve "mystery foods" to Joshua, but knowing that both white sauces and beans are not on his list of top favorite foods (although he does enjoy them occasionally!), along with wanting a fresh, unbiased opinion, I didn't divulge anything further than "Hey Honey, I tried a new white sauce recipe!"
I served the pasta and sauce with grilled chicken, and Joshua said it was "very good". I said "Really? Well, there's white beans in the sauce." He said, "Really? Well, I can't taste them! It tastes like macaroni and cheese, not beans."
Wow! Now, I could taste the beans in the sauce, but I liked the flavor. (I also knew they were there, so I'm not completely sure I would have been able to distinguish the flavor and identify it without knowing.)
I'm thinking we may add mashed white beans to white sauces a lot more often, especially since it's so easy to cook a big pot of beans, freeze in 2-cup portions, and thaw as needed. The presence of beans also cut down on the need for as much butter/flour for thickening, which is an added health bonus!