This simple White Bean Pasta makes use of store cupboard staples like pasta, a can of beans and tomatoes for a budget friendly meal that is easy to adapt. It is one of our favourite white bean recipes. A few dried herbs and a glug of balsamic vinegar bring this easy and comforting cannellini bean recipe to life.
I love a good cupboard raid meal when I haven't done a shop in a while, and there is no need to turn to instant noodles. Chances are you have some pasta shapes, a tin of beans and some tomatoes in the cupboard, and that's the base of this meal that you can adapt with other ingredients you might have in the fridge.
We love using white beans to bulk out recipes. They are mild in flavour, so they can be added to almost any recipe - they are super versatile. If you are looking for other ways to use beans, then why not try our Butterbean Soup, Chipotle Black Bean Stew or Spanish Bean Stew?
- Pasta - You can use any pasta here. We used penne, as that is what we had in the cupboard, but any pasta shape will work. The sauce clings nicely to spaghetti too.
- Shallots - These are the base of the pasta sauce and add a nice sweetness. You could swap them for a small brown onion if you prefer.
- Garlic - Fresh is always best, and make sure to finely crush it, almost in to a paste so there is even distribution in the sauce. You could save time and use frozen garlic.
- Chopped tomatoes - This is what makes up the sauce for this recipe. Try to use the best quality tinned tomatoes you can, as the cheaper ones tend to be very watery and you want a thick rich sauce. If you do use a cheaper tin of tomatoes, then you can add some tomato puree to it to thicken it up.
- Cannellini beans - This is where all the protein in the pasta dish comes from. Cannellini bean recipes are a staple in our meal plan, because they are filling, delicious, nutritious and budget friendly. You can use another white bean like haricot or butterbean instead.
- Oregano - We used dried herbs for this. You could use an Italian seasoning blend for extra flavour.
- Balsamic vinegar - This is always my "secret" ingredient in a tomato based pasta sauce. It adds a really rich flavour, and a little goes a long way. Try to use the best quality you possibly can, as you really will be able to taste the difference.
- Spinach - This is an easy way to give a vegetable boost to any pasta dish. Just add a couple of handfuls of spinach to the sauce a few minutes before it is finished cooking, and let it wilt. You could use kale too.
- Pasta Water - Adding starchy pasta water (just 100ml is enough) gives a really silky smooth sauce and helps it cling to the pasta. Make sure you scoop out the water just before draining, as this ensures that it is nice and starchy.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make white bean pasta - Step by step
One: Add the pasta to a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
Two: Put a teaspoon of oil in a pan and add the shallots. Gently cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.
Three: Add the tomatoes and beans and simmer for 3 minutes.
Four: Add the garlic and oregano.
Five: Mix in the spinach and balsamic and cook for 2 minutes.
Six: Mix with the cooked pasta and serve.
Why should you try it?
- Quick - This dish is ready in just 15 minutes.
- Protein packed - The cannellini beans give lots of protein, but still keep it meat free.
- Easy to adapt - Use this recipe as a base and then adapt it with our variation suggestions below.
- Budget friendly - Canned beans are a great budget friendly ingredient, as they are so versatile. All of the ingredients in this recipe are inexpensive.
- Freezes well - Make a double batch, as this freezes really well.
Health benefits of cannellini beans
Cannellini beans are believed to have originated in Peru and they were cultivated by Italian immigrants living in Argentina. They were taken back to Italy, where they have continued to be grown commercially to this day. They have a creamy and buttery texture, with a slightly nutty taste.
They are are super nutritious too. They contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, which will help keep you fuller for longer. This is a hearty and filling pasta dish, thanks to the beans. Cannellini beans are also a great source of vegan fibre, vitamin B9 (folate), iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc.
This recipe is a great opportunity to chop up whatever you have in your fridge and add it - it reduces food waste. We just added shallots and spinach, but you could use peppers, mushrooms, courgette or aubergine. Even carrots and broccoli could be chopped up and added.
We used fresh spinach, but if you have some in the freezer, then you could add that instead. You could substitute spinach for kale too.
This is a delicious meat free dish, but if you did want to add some meat or fish then shredded cooked chicken or salmon would work well. We also like adding some chopped sun-dried tomatoes or olives for extra flavour.
Take this pasta dish to the next level by topping it with cheese. We went with a sprinkling of Parmesan, but there are lots of options here. You could tear some mozzarella up to put on top, or even crumble over some goats cheese. Or keep it easy with some grated cheddar.
What to serve with White Bean Pasta
If you want to bulk this meal out a bit, then serve it with some garlic bread. Either buy some ready made, or make your own easy garlic bread by cutting up some French stick and spreading it with a mix of butter, crushed garlic and dried herbs. Then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. Why not try our Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread?
You could also keep it simple with a big green salad. The key to an epic green salad is to use a variety of greens, like romaine, spinach, kale and rocket. You want leafy greens, but crunch too. Then you need the perfect dressing. Why not try our Lemon Vinaigrette, Honey and Mustard Dressing or Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette. You could also try our Grilled Little Gem Salad, or Cucumber and Radish Salad.
Store: Leftovers can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for 2 days.
Freeze: This freezes well and although the beans won't have the same texture when defrosted, they are still delicious. Put it in freezer bags once cooled and it will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Defrost: You can defrost it in the fridge overnight
Reheat: This reheats well, so feel free to make extra and then you have yourself and easy lunch for the next day. Reheat in a pan until piping hot.
Leftovers can be turned in to an amazing pasta bake. Put it in a baking dish, top it with cheddar and then put it in the oven for 15 minutes to get all bubbly and delicious.
Frequently Asked Questions
They have a very mild flavour, but they are slightly nutty and creamy.
If you use your favourite gluten free pasta and make sure that there is no cross contamination, then this is a delicious gluten free meal.
Because it's an easy way to make the sauce really silky smooth, with no extra effort.
You can easily double this recipe and it doesn't change the cooking time. Just make sure that you have a big enough frying pan to hold double the ingredients.
Yes, as long as you leave the cheese out or use a vegan alternative, then this can be vegan.
• We used cannellini beans, but you can use any can of white beans that you have.
• Add some extra flavour to this dish with a sprinkle of chilli flakes before serving.
• To make this even quicker, use some fresh tagliatelle which is ready in a few minutes.
• We used Parmesan on top, but you could add cheddar, mozzarella or goats cheese.
• Mix this dish up a little by turning it in to a pasta bake.
• You can swap the spinach for kale, but make sure it is chopped up small so it cooks well.
• Add a splash of olive oil to the pan before serving for an extra boost of flavour.
• You can add any veggies that you have that need using up. Mushrooms, pepper and courgette (zucchini) work well.
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White Bean Pasta
- 140 g penne pasta
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3 shallots diced
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 400 g chopped tomatoes canned
- 240 g cannellini beans canned, drained weight
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 60 g spinach
- Add the pasta to a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.140 g penne pasta
- Put a teaspoon of oil in a pan and add the shallots. Gently cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.1 teaspoon olive oil, 3 shallots
- Add the tomatoes and beans and simmer for 3 minutes.400 g chopped tomatoes, 240 g cannellini beans
- Add the garlic and oregano.2 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Mix in the spinach and balsamic and cook for 2 minutes.60 g spinach, 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Add some extra flavour to this dish with a sprinkle of chilli flakes before serving.
- To make this even quicker, use some fresh tagliatelle which is ready in a few minutes.
- We used parmesan on top, but you could add cheddar, mozzarella or goats cheese.
- Mix this dish up a little by turning it in to a pasta bake.
- You can swap the spinach for kale, but make sure it is chopped up small so it cooks well.
- Add a splash of olive oil to the pan before serving for an extra boost of flavour.
- You can add any veggies that you have that need using up. Mushrooms, pepper and courgette work well.
- We used cannellini beans, but you can use any can of white beans that you have.