cannellini aglio e olio

If this were still April Fools Day, I’d tell you that my next cookbook will be about how to doctor up a can of beans. But, like the best April Fools Day jokes, it’s only funny if it could be true. Rest assured, I would never, but it’s definitely crossed my mind. It’s usually at lunchtime on a weekday, which is my single biggest failing as a home cook. Maybe you’re shocked that a person with so many ostensibly quick, five ingredient or fewer, and lunch-specific recipes at my disposal would not enlist them during a workday. Or you might gather that between thinking about breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a family as well as all of the recipes I might create for this site, books, or columns, when it comes to the relatively low stakes of my own lunch, slacking is inevitable.

all you need

That is, unless I spot a can of beans. One of my favorite things to do with beans is to treat them as you would pasta. I don’t do this out of any grievance with pasta/gluten/carbs. I do it because most of our favorite pasta sauces translate so well to other ingredients. From here, I’ve landed on pizza beans, weeknight beans on toast, and this grilled zucchini and white beans with pesto.

garlic, oil, pepper flakes
chopped artichoke hearts
add cannellini to the aglio e olio

But do you know what’s quicker and uses fewer than every single one of them? My lunch yesterday. Not hungry for anything in the fridge, I rummaged a can of beans from the cabinet and decided to pretend they were spaghetti, cooking them aglio e olio-style, i.e. in garlic and oil. Unquestionably simplest classic pasta preparation, aglio e olio hails not from New York (insert your best “all-ul” or Beastie Boys reference here) but Naples. Sliced or minced garlic is lightly sauteed in olive oil, often with dried red chili flakes (technically making it spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino), and finely chopped parsley and grated parmesan and pecorino are often added as garnishes, although cheese is verboten in some traditional recipes.

cannellini aglio e olio

None of this matters on a Monday afternoon, however, when I added all of the above and then chopped artichoke hearts, one can over in the cabinet. The result was a warm, almost creamy bean salad that you can eat with a fork straight from the skillet a bowl, or ladle over a couple slices of baguette, toasted hard. It was so good, I did the only rational thing and ate it for lunch again today. It’s so quick, you can finish the whole dish before the EP is up.

cannellini aglio e olio


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Cannellini Aglio e Olio with Artichokes

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Salt and red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-ounce cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • Half a 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino romano
Heat oil, garlic, and a pinch or two of pepper flakes over medium-low in a medium skillet. Let cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until garlic is just barely golden at the edges. Add drained cannelini beans and stir to combine. Add salt, to taste. Cook beans in garlic oil for 3 to 4 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water if it looks dry. Stir in artichoke hearts and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, just to warm. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and/or pepper, if needed. Stir in parsley. Eat as-is, ladled over firm slices of toast, and/or finished with parmesan or pecorino cheese.


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