Pasta with Creamy White Beans

This pasta dish is courtesy of chef Giada De Laurentiis. You can use any pasta you have on hand, but one that can capture the sauce is best. By smashing a few of the beans while the sauce is simmering you will begin the makings of a beautiful creamy sauce. Add cheese of choice and a little of the salty starch water from the pasta until desired creaminess. I use a lentil pasta and do not use anywhere near a pound. Between the lentils and the beans this has become a meatless meal for us. Enjoy!

1 pound shell pasta
1/4 C. olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or less)
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 15oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 C. chicken stock
8 oz. smoked provolone or smoked mozzarella
cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
1 5oz. container baby spinach, chopped

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Season well with salt. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than indicated in the package directions, about 7 minutes. Drain well reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, carrot and onion to the skillet. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and thyme and cook another minute. Stir in the drained beans and chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use the back of a spoon to gently smash some of the beans. Set aside.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and toss to coat well. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and add the 1/2 cup pasta water as needed to maintain a creamy, broth-like sauce. Sprinkle in the spinach and cook until wilted. Taste for seasoning.

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