White Beans with Baby Potatoes or Pasta, & Herbs

White Beans

White Beans

By Cat, June 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Includes: 1. White Beans, Baby Potatoes & Herbs; 2. Pasta e Fagioli (soup)

See also: 1. Beans & Other Legumes: Soaking & Sprouting2Vegetarian & Bean Menu; Other sites: 1. Emily Skinner Bean Recipes (2); 2. The Vegan Gourmet on dried beans & peas (great reference! (3))

The first time I tried the White Beans with Baby Potatoes & Herbs, I kept thinking, “this sure reminds me of Pasta e Fagioli (pronouncedpasta fazool”), an Italian soup I used to enjoy at a restaurant near my office when I lived in Portland. So I provide instructions to modify the original recipe to make Pasta e Fagioli, as well, using pasta instead of potatoes.

There are three common types of white beans: white kidney (also called cannellini), great northern, and navy beans. You can use any of these in the recipe, but I recommend the cannellini if you make Pasta e Fagioli. Remember that cannellini, as kidney beans, should be boiled 10 minutes before simmering. See Cook Think.com (2) for a great discussion of the difference between these 3 common types of white beans.

The method is a bit fussy, in that you prepare three separate parts (beans, potatoes, and tomato & herb sauce), then combine them just before serving. Don’t cheat and combine them while cooking, as the flavor will lose significant impact. If you plan to have leftovers, reserve the 3 parts intended for leftovers in 3 separate containers. Warm beans and potatoes together, warm sauce separately, then combine when you serve.

White Beans with Baby Potatoes & Herbs

This recipe is adapted from the New Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas (1).  Sometimes I make it without the potatoes, but tiny red potatoes have the most nutrient punch of any potato, as long as you leave the peel on. It is also excellent with a good mild sausage (I used bockwurst).  This dish improves the next day and the next!

This dish resembles Pasta e Fagioli (pronounced “pasta fazool”) in flavor.  See Variation for Pasta e Fagioli, below the original recipe.

Serves 4.

Ingredients & Equipment:

Soak/Sprout Beans

  • ½ pound white beans (Cannellini or Great Northern)
  • warm filtered water
  • lemon juice (1 Tbsp per quart of water)

Beans & Potatoes

If you wish to include sausage, select a mild sausage in a casing (not spicy Italian sausage), about 8 oz (½ lb).

Tomato-Herb Sauce

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 – 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • pinch dried oregano
  • ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut in chunks (or canned chopped tomatoes)
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • ½ cup veggie broth or chicken stock
  • Unrefined sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • cast iron skillet
  • wooden spoon


Soak/Sprout Beans

  1. Cover beans with warm water.  Stir in whey or lemon juice and leave in a warm place overnight (24 hours).  The longer they soak, the shorter the cooking time.  Check after a few hours and add more water as necessary.
  2. If you wish to sprout them, start that process at least 3 days before you want to cook this dish. See Beans & Other Legumes: Soaking & Sprouting for details.

Cook Beans

  1. Drain beans, rinse and put in saucier along fresh water (or chicken stock) to cover by 2 inches.  Boil for 10 minutes (very important, to ensure soft beans) and skim.
  2. Add peeled garlic cloves, sage and ½ Tbsp. olive oil.  Simmer gently until beans are tender, 1 – 3 hours.  Add more water as needed to keep beans covered.
  3. About 20 minutes before the beans are done, add about ¼ tsp of salt.

If you wish to include sausage, cut into 1″ – 2″ lengths, and add to beans and potatoes when you add the salt.

Cook Potatoes

  • Put potatoes in a pot of cold water.  Bring to a boil, then salt the water and cook until potatoes are just tender, 10-15 minutes, depending on size.  Drain and set aside.

Tomato-Herb Sauce

  1. While beans are cooking, heat olive oil in cast iron skillet.  Stir in minced garlic for a minute or two over medium heat.  Add herbs and crushed red pepper.
  2. Continue stirring for 3-4 minutes, then add tomatoes, water and broth/stock.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add tomato-herb sauce to beans and their remaining broth in saucier.  Add potatoes, and stir gently. Let everything heat through together, then serve

Assembly or Serving ideas

  • Spoon beans into generous bowls, pouring a little of the herb-scented broth over each serving.
  • Pass grated parmesan cheese.  Toasted croutons made from stale rosemary focaccia can also be added
  • Before serving, chop up some kale and add to the warm beans, allowing it to wilt and soften.

Variation:  Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans Soup)

Follow the recipe above, with the following modifications:

  • Use all white beans, or half white, half red kidney beans.
  • Instead of 2 cups chicken stock, use at least 6 cups (stock, or stock diluted with water) when cooking the beans.
  • Instead of the potatoes, cook about 4 oz. pasta (rigatoni, shell pasta, small bow-ties, etc) just short of al dente (it will cook more after adding to the soup), and stir into the soup when you stir in the tomato-herb sauce.
  • (Optional) Chop some fresh spinach, chard or kale, and stir into the soup just before serving, until it wilts.
  • Serve with grated parmesan cheese.


  1. New Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas
  2. Cook Think.com on the 3 common types of white bean: (cookthink.com/reference/988/Cannellini_beans_vs_Great_Northern_beans_vs_Navy_beans)

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