Ending up at carbonara beans with orecchiette
When I got home from Pennsylvania, the first thing I wanted to cook was beans. A pot of them feels like grounding myself again after being away: I will be home, and able to work through them all. Also, my kitchen was quite cold and the house quite dry, so something warm bubbling on the stove felt like a good solution.
After seeing Trevor ofpost pasta e ceci a while ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect it was conceptually for chickpeas to nestle inside pasta. Growing up, I didn’t eat a lot of chickpeas or beans, so this combination isn’t something that would come to me naturally. Reading Danny Licht’s Cooking As Though You Might Cook Again was another sign for me to consider pasta with beans.
I reached for the large white limas from Rancho Gordo and cooked them as I usually do, which was fairly quick after a night of soaking. I intended to toss them into orecchiette, the open ears ready for beans to slip inside, and finish them with olive oil and parm. That’s simple enough, but my cooking almost always ends up that I start with something incredibly simple and then want to do more, out of sheer enjoyment of the process. So, grating the parm into a bowl (about a cup), I thought about carbonara. I’m not sure I’ve ever made it properly — I don’t generally buy guanciale or other pork products — though I do turn to its technique every so often.
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I transferred a few spoonfuls of that grated parm into another bowl, for garnish. Then, into the bigger bowl of cheese, I added one egg and the yolk of another egg; the extra whites will go into fried rice tomorrow, probably. I whisked the cheese and eggs together with a few cracks of pepper. As the pasta (about a cup) finished, I reserved about a third of a cup of the salted pasta water, drained the noodles, and returned them to their pot.
Slowly, I poured most of the pasta water into the egg and cheese mixture, whisking constantly. I slowly poured this mixture into the pasta, with the pot over low heat. The key, once again, is to pour slowly and mix constantly so as to not curdle the eggs. In barely any time, the liquid clings to the noodles and turns gorgeously glossy. From there, I used a slotted spoon to throw in some of the cooked beans, and added more of the cheese-and-egg mixture to make sure the beans were coated as well.
All of that went into a bowl, which I finished with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous amount of black pepper, and that reserved bit of grated parm. I loved eating something so monochromatic that still had variety with each bite — and of course, I got the satisfaction of the bean-in-noodle moment. This made a little more than enough for me as an idiosyncratic late breakfast, but cook another cup of noodles, grate more cheese, and use a bit more of that pasta water, and it’d be enough for two.
This definitely isn’t meant to be a recipe recipe, and I’m definitely not the first person to put these things together. But I do think it’s nice to demystify the cooking process, which I don’t think comes across in an Instagram post: Here is where inspiration comes from; here is how that idea can morph. Here is another way to use the batch of beans you made. Here is how you borrow a technique from a dish associated with meat, then use it in a way that doesn’t have any. I hope to do more posts like this, as well as how I approach my weekly groceries.
As for the rest of the beans, I’ve been meaning to do something like Ottolenghi’s cheesy curried butter beans on toast. It’s in the cookbook Extra Good Things, which I’ve now cooked from a surprising amount and like a lot.