Sometimes a simple plate of pasta is all you need. And while I wish I could say, I only need pasta when the chips are down, that’s not remotely true. I’m pretty much in a perpetual state of wanting pasta. I use it to celebrate, commiserate, and lately, hibernate. Today’s recipe is a good piece of pantry worship. I originally created this dish because I didn’t want to put on “real” pants and haul my butt to the grocery store. I also didn’t want to surrender to takeout for the second time in a week. So I scoured my cupboards and emerged with beans, pasta, and a tin of tomatoes. And well, today’s Butter Bean Bucatini was more or less willed into existence.
The recipe below is what I would call the “bougie” version of the pasta I made out of desperation. This is the pasta I wanted to make instead of the one I managed to scrounge together. So, the tin of white beans has been replaced with dried butter beans soaked and simmered until, well, buttery. Because soaking and cooking your beans from dried just tastes better – full stop. And the original spaghetti was exchanged for the superior bucatini, which is my favorite pasta shape of all time in case you were wondering. Oh! And I added Swiss chard because when I have time to plan, I generally plan to add vitamins. Other than that, this is a faithful rendition of the pasta I made on that fateful lazy evening. So let’s get into it.
Now, I did mention that cooking beans from dried is vastly superior to cracking a tin, and I stand by that assessment. But I also know that one does not always possess the forethought to soak beans ahead of time. Trust me, I am not the together person my food photos suggest. I lose my keys and forget half my grocery list far more often than any “together” human would. So if a can of beans is your current speed, go forth and open your beans. You are now a good 8 hours ahead of the rest of us. But if you have the time and could use the comfort of something simmering on the stove, let’s soak those beans.
Once the beans are good and moisturized, it’s time to peel them. This is a somewhat tedious process, but worth it in the long run in terms of texture. Butter beans have quite a thick skin, so you will likely notice them even when the beans are cooked. So this step is worth it. Just put on a podcast and give your beans 20 minutes of your time. If you’re not about peeling beans, sub the butter beans for a thinner skinned variety. White beans work well here, chickpeas would be smashing as well.
When the last bean is peeled, it’s time to cook them low and slow with a few aromatics. In this case, those aromatics are 2 cloves of garlic and a couple of bay leaves. The beans simmer for 1-2 hours, however long it takes them to reach a buttery consistency. You can do this while you organize your medicine cabinet or take an online Jazzercise class. Does anyone still do Jazzercise? Or is that something we left in the 90s? Anyway, the point is simmering beans is blissfully inactive, so again, you just have to plan ahead a little. Or you can pop a can of beans. That option is always available to you.
With your beans underway, you’re free to build a basic marinara sauce. This recipe is based on my all-time favorite red sauce but I switched things up by adding Calabrian chilies and a ton of lemon juice for a more Meditteranean vibe. Like something you would find in Southern Italy. I’ve been cooking a lot of what I would classify as warm-weather dishes. I think I’m trying to cook my way out of my current frozen tundra reality. This sauce comes together in 20 minutes. I like to puree my sauce, which is an extra step. But feel free to skip it if you like your sauces chunky or you don’t want to clean your food processor. I get it. I hate cleaning my food processor.
From there it’s as simple as adding the beans and wilting the Swiss chard in the sauce. You can do this while your pasta cooks and your eggs poach. And if you’re not a poached egg person, you can certainly go the fried egg route or even the no egg route. As with most pasta dishes, this Butter Bean Bucatini is a choose-your-own-adventure sort of meal. I really love a runny yolk on warm pasta, so for me, the egg is non-negotiable. Plate everything up and finish the dish with a generous sprinkle of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, or pecorino cheese. I feel like I shouldn’t have to tell you that, though.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know about this Butter Bean Bucatini with Swiss Chard and Poached Eggs. This is a very simple dish, that can be as time-consuming as you want it to be. And it is endlessly adaptable, so if beans aren’t your jam, you can swap in any kind of protein you like, really. The world is your oyster or, I suppose, your plate of pasta.
Butter Bean Bucatini with Swiss Chard and Poached Eggs
- 1 Large, deep skillet
- 1 Large pot
- 1 non-stick frying pan
- 1 Food Processor
- 1½ cups dried butter beans ** soaked overnight
- 5 cloves garlic divided
- 4 bay leaves divided
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 shallots sliced into half moons
- 3 Calabrian chilies packed in oil coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste heaping
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bunch swiss chard chopped
- 1 lemon juiced
- 454g (1lb) dried bucatini
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- Parmigiano Reggiano shredded, for sprinkling
- Salt and pepper for serving
- additional fresh thyme for sprinkling
- Remove the thick outer skins of the soaked beans and place them in a large pot. Cover them with 2 inches of cold water. Crush and add 2 of the cloves of garlic and 2 of the bay leaves.1½ cups dried butter beans **, 5 cloves garlic, 4 bay leaves
- Place the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Add the salt and simmer for 1-2 hours or until the beans are very soft. Remove the aromatics, drain the beans, and set them aside.1 tsp kosher salt
- When the beans are almost finished, start the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet until shimmering. Add the shallots and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until just softened. Mince the remaining garlic and add it. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes, tomato paste, and the Calabrian chilies as well. Sauté for a minute more.5 cloves garlic, 3 shallots, 3 Calabrian chilies packed in oil, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine and stir in the whole canned tomatoes. Break the tomatoes up with the back of your spoon and bring the mixture up to a boil. Add the thyme and the remaining bay leaves and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 20 minutes.1 can whole tomatoes, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 bay leaves
- Once the 20 minutes have passed, remove the thyme and bay leaves and transfer the sauce to a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Return the sauce to the skillet and add the beans and Swiss chard. Stir in the lemon juice and place over low heat. Cook until the Swiss chard wilts, about 10 minutes.1 bunch swiss chard, 1 lemon
- While the sauce is on its final simmer, wipe out the pot you used to cook the beans and fill it with water. Bring the water up to a boil and liberally salt it before adding the bucatini. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the bucatini and pasta water to the simmer sauce and toss to coat.454g (1lb) dried bucatini
- While the pasta is cooking, fill a non-stick skillet 2/3 of the way with water and place over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to the barest simmer. Stir in the vinegar and crack an egg into a ramekin. Using a spoon, swirl the water to create a small vortex before bringing the ramekin to the surface of the water and dropping the egg in. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes or until the whites are just set but the yolks are still jiggly. Transfer the eggs to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.4 large eggs, 1 tsp white vinegar
- Divide the pasta across four plates and top each plate with an egg and garnish with cheese, salt and pepper, and fresh thyme. Serve immediately.Parmigiano Reggiano, Salt and pepper, additional fresh thyme