Beans are, perhaps, one of the most versatile yet underrated ingredients in the kitchen. This pantry protein is a hearty and fulfilling addition, even substitute, in many recipes—from pastas and salads to soups and side dishes. Moreover, these mighty legumes boast a number of health benefits and are practically a staple in meatless vegetarian and vegan diets.
What is it about beans? There’s something irresistible about their tender, silky texture and meaty bite. Whether they’re the main attraction or play a supporting role in a recipe, beans are a simple yet satisfying choice and you don’t have to go any further than your pantry shelves.
Beans have been an important part of Mediterranean cuisine. Like so many of the Italian ingredients that we have come to celebrate (risotto, polenta, etc.), legumes are modest in their roots. For centuries, they have been an easy and economical way to add protein to the diets of many. Besides being versatile and at the ready in your pantry, beans are also good for you—a part of the famed Mediterranean Diet you’ve heard so much about. They are packed with protein and fiber, among other nutrients, making them a superstar ingredient in a number of everyday dishes.
Legumes are an ingredient for all seasons and their meaty texture makes them the perfect stand-in for pork, beef or poultry—great for summery days when heavy proteins can seem too filling. Canned legumes are an excellent way to add substance to a cold pasta or greens salad with no cooking involved. One of the most popular beans of Mediterranean cuisine, the garbanzo bean (or chickpea), is known for its starring role in hummus, as well as its addition to salads, soups and a wide array of entrées, including pastas, curry stews and, even, pancakes. But there are a variety of beans to choose from, all different in size, texture and flavor.
Starters & Salads
A can of beans is nothing short of magic. Just a can of your favorite beans can create tasty appetizers, salads and light meals. Enjoy your favorite beans as a salad tossed with diced vegetables, fresh herbs and a tangy vinaigrette. Or try them mashed to make an incredible bean spread or hummus that is ready to top crostini toasts or pita. Just be sure to drain and rinse your canned beans well.
Soups & Brothy Dishes
What would soup be without beans? No, really. Their tender, meaty texture and earthy, mild flavors are the perfect addition to both creamy and broth-based soups, as well as brothy dishes like the famous Italian dish, Beans & Greens. It’s important to note that, unlike some ingredients, legumes hold their own in liquids, maintaining their irresistible texture while taking on the delicious flavors in the pot.
Pasta & Entrées
If you’re looking to add some variety to your next pasta creation, think beans. They are an especially great choice for quick weeknight pasta recipes. It’s as simple as grabbing a can from your pantry, since beans are ready to use with no extra cook time or prep time. Bite-sized and packed with protein and fiber, beans are an effortless way to create heartier, more filling meals with or without meat.
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