This recipe came to me after I had already made a lovely pot of smoky Cannellini beans. The beans alone could have served as a hearty if not somewhat boring meal, (or pasta e fagioli). However, I am no longer allowed to make pasta e fagioli for my husband and kids. The comforting dish which practically occupied its own tier of the food pyramid in my Italian family has been outlawed in my own household.
It would seem that I played that song one too many times for my captive audience. On the last occasion I prepared pasta e fagioli, I believe my 12 year old said, “I would rather listen to Disney’s “it’s a small world”, relentlessly, rather than eat another bite!” Point taken.
In an attempt to a least salvage the glorious beans which are the underpinning, I reworked the culinary equation to look like this:
pasta e fagioli + escarole – pasta + chicken polpettine (meatballs) = approval!
And guess what? The recipe got healthier in the process with the addition of lean protein, greens, tomatoes, and removal of the starch laden pasta.
Smoky Cannellini Beans with Escarole
1 pound dried Cannellini or Great Northern beans, soaked overnight
5 quarts chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1/4 cup high-phenol, Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 bay leaf torn
2 heads of escarole, torn
2 smoked turkey wings or 1 tablespoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
In a heavy 8+ quart stock pot over medium heat saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and paprika (if using) saute for another minute. Add the stock, turkey wings (if using), beans, and bay leaf. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender, add the escarole during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, make the polpettine…
2 pounds lean ground chicken or turkey
2 sliced of white or french bread
1/2 cup milk
1 small yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup super fresh, high phenol Ultra Premium Olive Oil
Soak the bread in the milk. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground poultry, onion, garlic, cumin, parsley, salt and pepper. Squeeze the soaked bread of excess milk and add to the bowl. Mix the contents thoroughly and portion out 1″ diameter meatballs. (I like to use a small cookie dough scoop here)
Heat a large skillet over medium -high heat. Brown the meatballs in batches until golden, and set aside.
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons super fresh, high phenol Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Drain all but a small amount of the oil from the skillet used to brown the meatballs. Place over medium heat and add fresh olive oil. Add the garlic and chili flakes. Saute for a minute being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the white wine and scrape up any browned bits adhering to the bottom of the pan from the meatballs. Reduce the liquid by half and then add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and reserved meat balls. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To serve this dish as pictured above. Ladle the beans on to a plate and top with a scoop of meatballs and sauce.
Makes 6 hearty portions