Here is my five dollar challenge meal. I fed my family of five for $16.24, with enough leftovers for a couple of lunches later in the week.
The only problem? The kids didn’t like the green stuff – the Swiss chard. They gobbled down the bacon, then picked at the beans and pasta around the chard leaves. *Someday my kids will love vegetables. This is like saying: someday the sun is going to burn out and become a dwarf star. Sure, it’s going to happen, but I’m doubt I’ll be around to see it.
Pressure cookers are great for cooking beans. Instead of hours, the beans are cooked through and creamy in 30 minutes. When I want a weeknight meal, like this one, 30 minute beans are critical. You don’t need an expensive pressure cooker; any six quart or larger pressure cooker will do the job. *No pressure cooker? No worries. See the Variations section for cooking instructions using a standard dutch oven.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Cannellini Beans with Bacon, Swiss Chard and Pasta
2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1 tablespoon table salt
1 pound box pasta (preferably a tube shaped pasta; I used chiocciole)
1 tablespoon fine sea salt or table salt
8 ounces bacon
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2 inch pieces, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 sprig rosemary
6 cups water
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
Sort, rinse, and brine the beans: At least 8 hours before cooking, sort the cannellini beans, removing broken beans, stones or dirt clods. Rinse the beans, put them in a large container, cover with 3 tablespoons salt and 3 quarts water, and stir to dissolve the salt. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Cook the pasta: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt, and cook the pasta for the time listed on the box, then drain.
Cook the bacon and saute the aromatics: While the water is boiling for the pasta: Put the bacon in the pressure cooker pot over low heat, and cook until has rendered its fat and is crispy and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate, leaving as much of the bacon fat behind as possible. (There should be 1 to 2 tablespoons of fat left in the pan; if there is a lot less, add a little vegetable oil.) Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the onion, chard stems, and garlic. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and saute until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
Cook the cannellini beans: Rinse the cannellini beans, drain, and add to the pressure cooker. Add the rosemary sprig, pour in the water, then stir to combine. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, increase the heat to high, and bring the cooker up to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 20 minutes in a stovetop PC or 24 minutes in an electric PC. Turn off the heat, and quick release the pressure in the cooker (by running cold water down the side, or releasing the pressure valve according to your cooker's instructions). Remove the lid carefully, opening away from you - even when it's not under pressure, the steam in the cooker is very hot. (Optionally, cook under pressure for 15 minutes stovetop PC/18 minutes electric PC, then let the pressure come down naturally for about 15 minutes.)
Finish the beans and chard: Drain the beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the bean cooking liquid. Discard the rosemary stem. Return the beans to the pressure cooker, stir in the chard leaves and reserved bean cooking liquid. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, bring it back up to high pressure, and cook at high pressure for 3 minutes. Once again, quick release the pressure, and carefully remove the lid. Stir in the lemon juice, taste, and add more salt as needed.
Serve: Put the drained pasta in a large bowl; top with the beans, then the bacon, then the lemon zest.
*Vegetarian beans: Replace the bacon with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
*No pressure cooker? No problem: follow the directions, replacing the pressure cooker pot with a large pot or dutch oven. In the “cook the cannellini beans” step, add 8 cups of water instead of 6 cups, bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, then simmer for 2 hours or until the beans are creamy. In the “Finish the beans and chard” step, after draining, put everything back back in the pot, and simmer for 10 minutes to cook the chard through. Continue with the rest of the recipe.
*If you have an 8 quart or larger pressure cooker, you can double the amount of beans; leftover beans freeze well, and can be thawed in the microwave or on the stove top.
*If you don’t want to brine the beans, or you forgot to (like I do all the time), do the following. Sort and rinse the beans, put them in the pot with 7 cups of water, and increase the time under high pressure to 45 minutes (35 with natural pressure release).
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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