Cannellini Beans with Cabbage and Pasta

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

Serve this wonderfully rustic dish piping hot on a cold day or at room temperature when it’s warm outside. Flavorful stock is key here. The cavatelli is my first choice, but any small pasta is fine. Use oil and omit the cheese to make this a vegan dish.

Other beans you can use: It’s important to use firm beans that won’t break apart when tossed with the pasta, like cranberry, appaloosa, pinto, or chickpeas.

Salt

1/2 head cabbage, preferably Savoy, cored and chopped

1/2 pound cavatelli, conchiglie, or orecchiette

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter

1 large or 2 medium leeks, including some green parts, washed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

1 cup vegetable stock, preferably One-Hour Vegetable Stock or Roasted Vegetable Stock

3 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained but still moist

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the cabbage and cook for about 3 minutes, until just tender; use a slotted spoon or a small strainer to fish it out; drain and set aside. When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook until tender but firm, 7 minutes or so, then drain it.

Meanwhile, put the oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot or the butter is melted, add the leeks and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, and the wine if you’re using it, and cook for another minute, until almost dry. Add the stock, beans, and reserved cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the flavors blend and everything is well heated, about 5 minutes more.

Combine the bean mixture and the pasta in the large pot and stir gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve.

Variations

Cannellini Beans with Spinach and Cavatelli. Replace the cabbage with a pound or so of cleaned and trimmed spinach; but instead of blanching it, just add it to the large skillet in Step 2 after the leeks and celery have softened. Add a handful of raisins or currants if you like in Step 3.

Cranberry Beans with Artichokes and Cavatelli. Use artichoke hearts or whole baby artichokes: Substitute 2 or 3 cups quartered artichoke hearts or 10 or so trimmed and quartered baby artichokes for the cabbage. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the artichokes boiling water in Step 1. Cook the pasta separately and proceed with the recipe.

Chickpeas with Cabbage and Pearl Couscous. Add a tablespoon or so of Harissa for a North African twist: Replace the cavatelli with 1 cup pearl couscous and the cannellini with chickpeas. Increase the vegetable stock to 2 cups. In Step 2, after cooking the thyme and wine, add the 2 cups stock; bring to a boil and add the pearl couscous. Cover and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Proceed with the recipe.