It's the end of 2019, and advances in carb technology have ensured that you can pasta anything these days. Your average grocery store now has tons of non-semolina flour/gluten-free options, from chickpeas to hemp (really!) — and if you're lucky, unexpected varieties like black bean.
As a onetime vegetarian, I have an enduring love of black beans. They're a common dinner protein in my house. They're heart-healthy and are a good source of fiber. But when I was assigned this story, I initially balked at the idea of turning them into pasta. What else is in that pasta besides black beans? And more importantly ... is this pasta variant any good?
What's in it
The only ingredient listed in the black bean pasta I purchased was organic black beans. One serving — a quarter of the box — will cost you 180 calories and contains a whopping 25 grams of protein, half the daily recommended amount, along with 1,098 milligrams of potassium (31 percent); and 11 grams of fiber (44 percent). For comparison, a serving of canned black beans (half a cup) is 109 calories and contains 7 grams of protein, 8.3 grams of fiber, and 800 milligrams of potassium.
I did not have any expectations about how this stuff would taste. I feared it would be cardboardesque, like so much well-intentioned health food, but no! It tastes very similar to whole wheat pasta, with a little bit of black bean aftertaste. I don't recommend using this in a traditional red sauce, but I think it'd be great with mussels and butter, or with a spicy peanut sauce and some crunchy cucumber. I elected to pair it with some fall flavors and healthy vegetables to bring out the whole wheat flavor and play down the bean flavor.
Where to find it
I went to four grocery stores in the Northern Berkshires and couldn't find any black bean pasta (though there were plenty of other non-semolina pasta varieties). Managing Editor of Features Lindsey Hollenbaugh found hers at Aldi; if you're making a trip to Albany or the Pioneer Valley, you can find it at Trader Joe's. Amazon also has several black bean pasta brands (including the Trader Joe's variety).
Gluten-free people, I see you, and I appreciate you. It's great that we have so many non-grain options now. I'm never giving up pasta, but its black bean cousin is a legitimately good alternative, and is surprisingly reminiscent of whole grain. I've had some other gluten-free pastas (my mom is off gluten) made with things like corn flour, and the black bean one is healthier, more filling and has a more interesting flavor. If you can find it in the store, grab it!
BLACK BEAN PASTA WITH SWEET POTATOES, SAGE AND VEGETABLES
1 box black bean pasta
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (approximate to reduce food waste)
4 tablespoons butter, divided into two 2 tablespoon chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon dried sage
1 cup frozen green peas
1 pound bag spinach
Heat saucepan to medium and add 2 tablespoons of butter and sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and saute 10 to 12 minutes, until sweet potatoes get soft. Add onion, garlic, sage and more butter, then saute until onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add spinach and peas, and cook about five minutes longer, until spinach wilts.
Meanwhile, fill a large sauce pot with water and a liberal amount of salt. Boil and add black bean pasta; cook 4 to 6 minutes until soft/al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta.
Add 1/3 cup pasta water to pan with sweet potatoes and cook until liquid reduces, then add black bean pasta and another splash of pasta water to help you toss it all together. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
BLACK BEAN SPAGHETTI WITH VEGETABLES AND LIME MAYO
1/2 lb (250 gr) black bean spaghetti
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion diced
1 garlic clove pressed
2 cups chopped bell peppers
2 cups sliced white mushrooms
1 cup (1 medium) diced zucchini
8 small sun dried tomatoes sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoon chopped green onions
lime juice for drizzling
1 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
juice from 1 lime
zest from 1 lime
splash of Tabasco
Prepare lime mayo by mixing 1 cup mayonnaise, zest and juice from 1 lime, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and a splash of Tabasco.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add spaghetti. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, then drain water.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet on medium heat and add onion. Saut for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent.
Add peppers and cook for 2 minutes, then add mushrooms and zucchini and cook until mushrooms begin to sweat. Them add garlic.
Add paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, oregano and stir. Add sun dried tomatoes and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are cooked.
Divide spaghetti between 4 plates and top with vegetables. Drizzle lime mayo on top. Sprinkle green onions and squeeze some lime juice on top.