Braised white beans with arugula (which you may know better as rocket) is a simple and healthy side, full of fiber, leafy greens, and plenty of flavor. All you need is a few ingredients and a bit of time.
One of my favorite meals is to get some white beans braising on the stove, stir in some arugula, and then grill up a few lamb chops. A little mint sauce or wine sauce or maybe a few figs and we have dinner. Yum!
I first started making these beans many years ago, after having my mom’s white beans with arugula. I loved them so much I started making them myself, though of course with a few changes. 🙂 Mom prefers more of a quick saute of the beans with garlic, then the arugula, and done. Over time I started making the recipe as braised white beans, slowly cooking with some stock and a bit of tomato paste, before I stir in the arugula at the end. Both great ways to make white beans! But I’ll stick with talking about braised beans today.
You know, since that’s what I made… 😉
Which is healthier kale or arugula?
Or shall we say spinach vs. arugula vs. kale.
I personally don’t find this to be a terribly useful question, though I know it’s one a lot of people wonder about. Basically, they are ALL very healthy, very good for you, and very full of excellent nutrients. Each of these dark, leafy greens (along with chard, turnip greens, beet greens, and others) belongs in a healthy, balanced diet.
What it really comes down to is:
- what flavor profile do you want
- which greens look freshest in the store
- and which ones you like
Spinach is mild, but has a bit of an astringent quality (which will make your teeth squeak when you eat a spinach salad); while arugula is spicy and peppery; and kale (especially mature kale) tends to be a bit bitter.
In this recipe, while you could use kale or spinach or any of the other dark greens out there, the spicy, rather mustardy flavor of the arugula is the perfect foil for the creamy, mild white beans. Giving the dish some zing and waking up your mouth.
Canned White Beans vs. Dried Beans
Like the greens choice above, this is a judgement call. And it’s one that comes down to whether you want your dinner now or you have an afternoon to kill.
Dried beans will, without a doubt, take longer to prepare, though maybe not as much time as you think. However, you will be able to add aromatics to improve the flavor, control the salt, and have no worry about them being all mushy from the canning process. Cooking up a batch of dried beans is not a bad way to spend a weekend afternoon and then you can freeze them up for later.
On the other hand, canned beans have the convenience factor, which is great when you spent that afternoon getting out of the house and you want dinner tonight. There are widely available brands offering low sodium options. And, when it comes to canned beans, small white beans and cannellini beans take canning very well, keeping a good texture and flavor.
While I especially love these braised beans with lamb, they are equally good with all sorts of roasted, seared, and grilled meats. I hope this dish ends up on your table as much as it does on mine!
– Happy Braising, Annemarie
Arugula adds brightness and a peppery flavor to this simple and healthy recipe for Italian braised white beans with garlic and tomatoes. It's a satisfying side dish for all sorts of meals, especially grilled or seared lamb chops or steak.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- kosher salt
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 15-oz cans white beans
- 2-3 cups chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 5-6 cups young arugula, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and a sprinkle of kosher salt and saute for 1-2 minutes, lowering the heat if the garlic starts to brown.
Stir in the tomato paste and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Add the cans of beans with their liquid, 1 cup of the chicken stock, and the bay leaf. Bring the beans to a simmer.
Let the beans cook down, stirring occasionally, adding more of the chicken stock as needed to keep the beans saucy and not dry. Braise the beans for 20 minutes.
Add the chopped arugula and cook until the arugula is wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve.
- I usually use small white beans, but I have also made this with cannellini beans and butter beans.
- You can substitute spinach or kale for the arugula, though it won't have the same peppery flavor.
- For a smokey, meaty flavor, use bacon fat in place of the olive oil.
- Exactly how much arugula you want to add is going to depend on how spicy your arugula is. Young arugula from the supermarket is quite mild and you can often use 5-6 cups. Local arugula will often be a bit older and stronger so start with less and add as needed. And that really spicy arugula from your neighbor's garden may be so much you can only add a handful.