There is so much to love about velvety, protein-packed white beans–especially white beans with za’atar roasted tomatoes and olive oil, an ultra-flavorful combination that will keep you satisfied, healthy, and happy! Vegetarian and gluten-free (and vegan if you leave out the parmesan cheese).
When I daydream of cozy evenings with my sissie on Seminary Avenue in Chicago, there are many fine foods that come to mind (because good food and cozy go hand-in-hand, right?). Chicken and hushweh, weekly thanks God. Big salads, chocolate chip cookies of every shape and size (Peg is a chocolate chip cookie explorer), sheet pans of roasted vegetable goodness.
And big bowls of pasta. We took tips most especially from Lidia Bastianich, as well as the little While the Pasta Cooks book. More often than not, when the box of pasta hit the counter, I ambled my way down the hall to the front of the condo (Chicago shotgun), and made myself useless while I indulged in awaiting a Peggy-pasta to be placed in my lap.
The pasta sauce components were always simple enough, zucchini and onions or pancetta and hot pepper flakes, good olive oil, freshly shaved parmesan, and there you go: dinner is so very excellent on every level.
This summer, Peg started to explore, as so many others have been doing in recent years, the pasta-replacement. It’s a tough one. I gifted her a spiralizer as part of the adventure, which is well and good, but her own compass led her to the glorious world of beans.
She’s been soaking up a storm of the legumes, so that you hardly walk in her kitchen without seeing a pot of beans on the stove. There is a lot to be said for soaking and cooking your own legumes, which results in fully infused flavor along with a sense of economy and wholesomeness all around.
White beans (northern or cannellini) turn out to be a top-of-the-line substitute for a bowl of pasta. I’d say Peg uses a variety of simple toppings, but the go-to for the last two months has been big, juicy slices of tomatoes, topped with za’atar and roasted to heighten sweetness and intensity, plus razor-thin shards of parmesan, a generous pour of fruity olive oil, salt, and a shower of chopped herbs.
This bowl of goodness was presented to me one rainy afternoon up north not long ago, when I had quietly slid out of the kitchen to sit and wait lazily in a chair, enjoying the aroma of the roasting tomatoes and waiting for Peg to place lunch before me.
Peg used a pasta bowl. Most everything tastes good that is presented in a pasta bowl. She nestled the bowlful in my lap and made a show of drizzling the olive oil, which for her is probably the best part of the dish, so perfect for showcasing the green gold she hunts down from the world over so we can make an edible study their rich complexities.
Oh my . . . eat this bowl of goodness and I guarantee you will not feel the need to eat anything else for hours on end. You’re satisfied! You’re the best kind of full! You’re healthy! And you’re so happy because that which made you so satisfied tasted so delectable! And it wasn’t even pasta!
White Beans with Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes and Olive Oil
Cook your own beans (favorite brand: Rancho Gordo) from dry by soaking them overnight, then cooking them in water with onions, carrots, and celery until tender (no salt, until the very end of cooking). Or use prepared beans to make this a very quick, simple, meal that could not be more delicious or satisfying!
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
Lay the tomato wedges on the sheet pan and season with a tablespoon of za’atar and a pinch of salt. Drizzle with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons in total. Roast the tomatoes until they are very soft and fragrant, about one hour.
Divide the beans in two pasta bowls. Lavishly drizzle olive oil over the beans and toss with a pinch of salt to coat the beans. Top the beans with the roasted tomatos, parmesan cheese, chopped herbs, and a finishing pinch of za’atar and salt. Serve immediately.