Thursday, October 10, 2013

Penne with White Beans and Escarole and Crispy Asparagus

This is my new favorite fall dinner! The pasta has so many scrumptious flavor combinations. The salty briny capers, sweet tomatoes, toasty garlic and crisp escarole - it's so hearty and really warms you up on a chilly night. A great part about this is that it can be made vegan - you just leave off the Parmesan cheese. I also found it's a great way to introduce new flavors to your child's palate. For some reason, my kids seem to hesitate eating tomatoes and anything green. Call me crazy but I think this is a common problem. If your kids eat green vegetables readily, I am jealous! It's hard work for me. I start with fixing them a noodle dish with a little butter and cheese. I sauté the garlic and throw in the capers (pickled berries). My kids love capers because they remind them of pickles. Once, they are comfortable with those flavors, I add in the beans and then try to sneak in the tomatoes and escarole. I love the asparagus too. I am still working on my kids to eat this veggie but the bread crumbs and Parmesan make it more tempting for them to take a taste. Enjoy!

La Recette:

12 oz. gluten free pasta - I like Bionaturae. If you don't need gluten free pasta, regular pasta works here too.
1 head escarole, washed, dried well, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, I like San Marzano
1 14ish oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for serving


  • Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a sauté pan and turn the burner to medium high. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley and cook until fragrant - about 2 minutes.
  • Next, add the cannellini beans and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Then, add in the tomatoes. Quickly squeeze them with your hands to break them apart and use your spoon as well (make sure you are wearing an apron because the tomatoes will squirt). Add in the bay leaves and let it cook and reduce down for about 10-15 minutes.

  • In the meantime, bring a large saucepan with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to boil (the salt helps to flavor the noodles and the oil helps the gluten free noodles from sticking). Cook the noodles al-dente, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • While the noodles are cooking remove and discard the bay leaves and add the escarole to the tomato mixture. It will look like a lot but it will cook down quickly.

  • Once the escarole starts to cook down (5-8 minutes), add in the capers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the salt and pepper and mix well. Turn the heat off.
  • Try to time the pasta so that it is finished shortly after you put the capers into the tomato/escarole sauce. I would put the pasta into the boiling water about 10 minutes after you add in the bay leaves while the tomato sauce is cooking.
  • Drain the pasta and add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the tomatoes and escarole. Reserve the remaining 1/2 cup and use only if the sauce is too thick (1-2 tablespoons at a time).
  • Add the pasta to the tomatoes and escarole and mix well.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese into the pasta and reserve the other 1/4 cup to sprinkle on each serving. Enjoy!

*Serves 4


1 medium bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 gluten free bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
  • Place the asparagus on the baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, making sure they are coated well.
  • Combine the bread crumbs (I've mentioned this before but never buy breadcrumbs. Use the ends of your bread and put them in the food processor), cheese, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle the mixture over the asparagus.
  • Bake for 15 minutes

*To start my kids out with this dish, I reserve a quarter of the pasta, 2 tablespoons of the beans, and use an extra tablespoon of capers. Using the same saucepan that I cooked the noodles in, sauté 1/2 teaspoon of garlic until fragrant - 2 minutes. Add the noodles and 1-2 tablespoons of pasta water and 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil. Next, add the beans and capers and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. They love this and I can slowly work in the tomatoes and escarole.

*This entire recipe is so easy to make vegan. Just hold all of the cheese and it won't compromise the integrity of the recipe in any way.


  1. This recipe was delicious, easy and super tasty! Most of all, my kids loved it! Many thanks for sharing and posting! We are trying the mac n cheese cups this week!

  2. This looks fantastic! I don't have picky kids to feed but my partner is not always sold on greens (including asparagus). But he'll eat anything mixed with pasta!

    1. Thanks! It's a great dish. Let me know how you like it!


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