Let me be upfront with you– this is not a pretty dish. It’s beige and sloppy-looking and won’t win any beauty contests. It won’t amaze your tastebuds with new and exciting flavors, either. But on the plus side, it’s reasonably healthy, quick and easy to make, and is basically the epitome of comfort food for a wintry evening. Also, it’s delicious, so you should make it.
While I’m sure the combination of beans, bacon, and cabbage has been around for a while, I somehow didn’t “discover” it until recently, when I was googling dinner ideas and came across a recipe in the Washington Post. I’ve adapted it to drastically increase the cabbage (and thus my perception of its healthiness), but aside from that it’s good as-is. The smokiness of the bacon combines with the creaminess of the beans to give it a really hearty flavor, and the cabbage just kind of melts into the dish, adding bulk but not hitting you in the face with cabbage-y flavor or odor. With plenty of black pepper and parmesan cheese, I’ve eaten this repeatedly this past winter, and regret nothing.
Farfalle With Bacon, Beans, and Cabbage (adapted from the Washington Post)
- 8 ounces dried farfalle (or shaped pasta of your choice)
- 4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 onion, diced
- 16-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 napa cabbage, cut into quarters and then 1/2″ strips (whole cabbage should be about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs)
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. While pasta is cooking, saute bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until mostly cooked but not brown or crispy yet.
3. Add onions to skillet and cook in the bacon fat until onions are slightly translucent and the bacon is starting to brown.
4. Add beans, cabbage, and chicken broth, and cover the skillet. Continue to cook until liquid comes to a boil, then lower heat to medium. Continue cooking, covered, stirring occasionally to make sure the cabbage is getting mixed properly, for about 5-7 minutes or until cabbage is tender.
5. Add cooked and drained pasta and mix thoroughly.
6. Season with salt and pepper as desired, stir in 1/4 cup parmesan, and serve. Feel free to add extra cheese as garnish.
- I would not recommend using a long, skinny pasta like spaghetti or linguine here– it’ll tangle up in the cabbage and be hard to serve. Stick with farfalle, or something similarly shaped. Maybe even large shells or penne. Probably not small stuff like macaroni.
- Napa cabbages can vary drastically in size, but try to find one a little smaller than an American football, or about 10″ long (for my non-American readers). You can use regular cabbage if you can’t find napa, but it won’t cook down as nicely and will have a stronger cabbage flavor.
- To prep your cabbage slice it in half the long way, then in half again, so you have four long wedges. Cut out the core from the bottom of each wedge, then cut the cabbage horizontally to make strips about 1/2″ wide. 3/4″ is fine, too.
4. One of the bonuses in using a whole cabbage (instead of only 6 oz of cabbage as recommended in the original recipe) is that you can stretch your pasta further. Ordinarily my husband and I can easily demolish 8 oz. of pasta between the two of us, but with the cabbage and beans this makes a hearty meal with plenty to spare for lunches the next day. Plus, cabbage is a lot healthier than pasta, so we can feel virtuous about eating it.