Cannellini Beans and Rice

After my sticky bun disaster, I need to redeem myself and redeem myself I shall with the picture you see above: that’s cannellini beans and rice, an improvised dinner I whipped up with just a few cheap ingredients in less than 20 minutes.

And it was good. Really good! What was so good about it? Let me tell you.

Ever since my friend Rachel Wharton shared her recipe for Bodega Beans I’ve been frying up panfuls of beans any time I’m hungry but either (a) don’t want to spend much money; or (2) don’t want to go out into the cold to get ingredients. I almost always have canned beans around and with Rachel’s brilliant recipe, you just fry up anything else you have–onions, garlic, ginger, peppers, carrots, celery, anything!–and add the beans, salt and pepper and you’re done.

Craig did have a complaint, though. He thought the Bodega Beans were too dry.

I enjoyed their dryness–they got a little crispy in the oil–and so for me it was a pleasant textural component. But on my most recent venture with beans, I decided to make them saucier–turning them from caustic Miranda beans into sexy, soupy Samantha beans. (You’re welcome, “Sex & The City” bean fans.)

I used tomato paste and water to achieve this effect and along with onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes it would’ve fared equally well on pasta. In fact, this kind of topping–with the Italian cannellini beans–kind of belonged on pasta; the rice was the weird component. But so what? We’re adventurous here at Amateur Gourmet headquarters. And the payoff was pretty splendid.

Here’s how you do it:

Cannellini Beans & Rice


Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

One onion, chopped

2 -3 cloves of garlic, chopped

Red pepper flakes

1 Tbs tomato paste

1/2 cup – 1 cup water

1 can cannellini beans



Basmati rice (or any white rice, really)

1. Make rice according to package instructions. (Make sure it’s plain white rice; the bean topping has plenty of flavor, believe you me.)

2. Take a pan and start getting it hot. Add a drizzle of olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion and saute until the onion starts to become golden, about 10 minutes. Add salt towards the end.

3. Now this part’ll happen fast: add the garlic and watch it, it’ll burn. Stir all around and push to the side and in one spot add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes (to taste, about 1/2 tsp) and in another spot add the tomato paste. Stir the paste around in its spot til it turns orange and then stir everything all together. It should smell great.

4. Now’s the part where you add water. “Water?” you might think but most Italian sauce recipes involve water and this’ll take all those flavors you just developed and extract them into a sauce. Let the water simmer up and then lower the heat. Add a little salt and taste. Does it taste good? It may need more salt.

5. Now add your can of beans, including the liquid. Stir it all around and let simmer a few minutes. Taste it. Maybe it needs more salt? More pepper? More red pepper flakes? If it gets too dry, add more water and continue to simmer until it’s saucy and hot.

That’s it. Serve it on rice with some parsley. An easy, cheap dinner that’ll make you happy in these final cold days of winter. Way better than burnt sticky buns, in my humble opinion.

25 thoughts on “Cannellini Beans and Rice”

  1. Man, that looks like a great cheap dinner for a cold night. In fact, I’m considering using it over couscous–my go-to b/c it’s cheap, quick, and easy.

  2. that looks really good!

    do you ever make any curries or any indian food in general? the first thing that popped into my head when i saw that picture was a good spicy yellow curry.

  3. perfect pantry meal! Stephen Shaw on egullet is attempting to cut down his shopping by half and use what’s in the pantry/freezer, it’s an interesting challenge and perfect for everyone trying to save money. Though aren’t we supposed to be spending money?

  4. When I first saw the picture I thought it was pasta on top of rice. haha Rice is by far superior to pasta anyway. This recipe makes me think the world needs to try things we put on pasta on rice. Or maybe that would go horrible wrong. haha

  5. i was going to comment on stephen shaw’s no grocery shopping week as well! this seems like the perfect sort of meal to result from that experiment. its inspired me to do the same, though this bean meal is the sort of thing i’d eat regardless. yum!

  6. i make a version of this all the time. just did one yesterday. organic brown basmati rice in the rice cooker while a can of organic lentils warmed in pan with olive oil, some garlic and white pepper which gives it a great smokey, long simmered flavor in about 5 minutes.

  7. I love cannellini beans, but for some reason they are really hard to find at my local supermarkets. I find this odd. I am now craving cannellini beans in a spicy tomato broth. Hmmm…

  8. This looks awesome! I *love* the bodega beans – variations on that recipe are how I manage to live on a theatre-worker salary. Yay for good cheap food!

  9. This looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for the cheap recipe! And I have plenty of rice left over from a stir fry last night so this will be a perfect dinner for tomorrow.

    Check out this post for super easy instructions on making perfect sticky rice, every single time!

    Those burned sticky buns were pretty sad (and amusing!), but a pot of burned rice makes for a rough night indeed! Not to mentioned a ruined pot.

  10. Do not give up on those sticky buns. You could just bake them at a lower temperature.Have you ever tried the the red or small black beans, they are also good. I usually put them together with a little bit of coconut cream and water and seasonings.

  11. Ahh! Rice and Beans?! That was my least favourite meal as a child. It was made with kidney beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, chili pepper and rice and baked in a casserole dish topped with a little cheese. Blegh! That being said, this sounds much better, especially with pasta. Although I’m hesitant, this sounds good enough to hopefully change my perception…

  12. This looks great. Beans and rice–in various incarnations–are one of my favorite comfort foods, but for some reason I rarely make them in this form. I’ll be giving this a try soon.

  13. I make a similar dish all the time. however I take roma tomatoes and blend them in the blender, leaving them chunky, add your garlic, salt,onion, pepper, and 1 cue maggie, if your tomatoes are not very fresh add a little suger, (pinch)

    than after the sauce is cooked take a habenero pepper (on a fork, of course)and drag it gently through your sauce, remove your pepper, add your beans and simmer.


  14. I’m eating a similar lunch RIGHT NOW! Have you considered a Middle-Eastern-y version? The next time I cook this up I think I’ll try adding some ras al hanout or a cinnamon-cumin-coriander blend.

  15. adam! this was delicious! i made it for my mother-in-law last nite and took your advice and substituted campanelle pasta (tossed in a little butter and garlic salt). this dish was so full of flavor and was everything you promised it to be – thank you!

  16. I wonder why all the comments on this ‘recipe’ are predictive and supportive. Probably ‘cos everyone who actually tried it is soooo underwhelmed that they went back to their diet of rice paper & water.

  17. I thought this was pretty good. When I went to make it I read the recipe and started searching for other recipes involving the cannellini beans. The water olive oil and tomato paste?! It just didn’t sound appetizing; however the results were pretty good. It was a fun e exercise in reducing as well as the water evaporated and left the beans in a more concentrated stew. It reminded me of red beans and rice and I quickly added Tabasco, I also only used half an onion which I thought was sufficient. I think it is a better side than a meal, tres recession chic.

    @Gareth I think that the comments are a little overzealous as well.

  18. Yea this dish was not that great I don’t know what everyone is cheering about. Just read the recipe it doesn’t take Michael Ruhlman to figure out how blaise this is. Its best as a side not a meal, very recession chic though.

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