Thursday, February 28, 2013

Heatlyh Italian White Bean Stew with Bacon

I have a love affair with white beans….the bigger the better. They are creamy and luscious and I just swoon over them. Ok that probably makes me a giant kitchen dork, but it’s true. The other good thing about beans is they are super healthy. So when I added a little bit of bacon to this dish, I didn’t feel bad at all. In fact, this dish is really rather good for you. It’s a hearty stew of sweet Italian tomatoes (I like to use the fire roasted variety), tender vegetables with that added flair from the fennel, creamy and satisfying large white beans and then the pop of bacon here and there. The woodsy notes from the rosemary give this a rustic homey feel. We had this for dinner and then promptly finished it off the next night. Topped with a generous sprinkle of pecorino, it really hits the spot. You could also make it veg by omitting the bacon and just sautéing the vegetables in olive oil only. It’s warm and soothing and reminds me of the decadent flavors of my favorite pasta dishes without the guilt of eating pasta. Enjoy!
Healthy Italian White Bean Stew with Bacon
a girl and her kitchen

2-3 slices of bacon, diced
2 carrots, washed and diced
2 celery stalks, washed and diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed (stems and outer layer removed) and diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 c red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp butter
2c large white beans (pre-soaked and cooked almost to doneness (simmer for 1 hr))
1 rind of pecorino or parmesan cheese
48 oz of canned tomatoes (can be whole peeled and their juices, diced, crushed or a mix)
Salt and pepper

In a large heavy bottom pot (like a creuset dutch oven), cook the bacon over medium heat until brown. Remove the bacon and set aside leaving the grease in the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and garlic to the pan along with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix well and sauté on medium heat for 8 minutes until the vegetables begin to just soften (add a a tbsp. of olive oil if needed to keep the veg relatively moist). Add the wine, tomato paste and red pepper flakes, scrapping the bottom of the pan to pick up all the good bits; continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes until most of the wine has evaporated.
While the vegetables are cooking, using a food processor, pulse the tomatoes a few times until slightly chunky and thick (if using only crushed tomatoes, skip this step).

Add the tomato mixture to the pan along with the rosemary, bay leaf, oregano and cheese rind. Mix well and taste for seasoning, likely adding a pinch of salt as needed. Let simmer for 15 minutes and then add the butter, stirring well to combine. Add the cooked beans and bacon and let cook another 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve topped with extra grate pecorino cheese.
Cooks note: you could always add in chopped kale or swiss chard or even baby spinach. Add at end so they just wilt before serving.

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