- Prep time 1 hour
- Cook time 3 hours
- Serves 4
Shrimp scampi is delicious—but shrimp is expensive, and so is wine. So when I want to channel those buttery, garlicky flavors on a budget, I turn to big beans, which, once cooked, are almost the size of a shrimp. Not to mention they make their own super savory broth as they simmer (so then I can drink my wine instead). The name of the game here isn't to feel like we're missing out and "can't" buy seafood, but instead to get confident making vegetarian swaps, because they're almost always cheaper and, yeah, just as delicious. Still, to achieve that, for lack of a better word, scampiness, I do add a bit of briny-sweet fish sauce to the pasta—you can skip it if you’re vegetarian, but otherwise do try it, even if you think you don’t like fish sauce.
You’ll start with 8 ounces of big dried beans—corona, gigante, or large lima all work. They’ll run you about $2, depending on the bean and brand. If you’re pressed for time, use 2 cans of butter beans (or smaller cannellini if that’s all you can find) and 1 cup of vegetable broth; this costs more and the broth is slightly less rich, but the meal total will still be under $10. Boil the beans with olive oil, a bit of garlic (you’ll use 8 cloves total—$0.30) and lemon zest (the whole lemon, $0.50, gets used), and just enough water to make a concentrated, deeply flavorful broth. To channel the tanginess of wine, stir in a bit of white wine vinegar. Next up: pan-toasted, lemon-zesty panko ($0.40), for some much-needed crunch. Make the sauce with bean broth, more garlic, onion, and butter ($0.50), plus red pepper flakes and fish sauce to wake it up. And don’t forget the pasta (1 pound of your favorite long noodles, $1.30), cooked until just shy of al dente. Finish cooking the pasta directly in the sauce, along with the beans and a mountain of chopped parsley (leaves and all the stems, $1.20). Grand total: under $7, for a truly Strega Nona–sized pot of pasta.
This recipe was featured on our new cook-along podcast Play Me a Recipe. Listen as Rebecca Firkser cooks her way through this recipe, offering insider tips and backstory along the way. —Rebecca Firkser
Test Kitchen Notes
Nickel & Dine is a budget column by Rebecca Firkser, assigning editor at Food52 and big bean stan. Each month, Rebecca will share an easy, flavor-packed recipe that feeds four (or just you, four times)—all for $10 or less. —The Editors
big dried beans, such as corona, gigante, or large lima, soaked overnight; or 2 (15-ounce) cans butter beans, drained and rinsed + 1 cup vegetable stock
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
white wine vinegar
medium red or yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoons
red pepper flakes (optional)
fish sauce (optional)
long pasta, such as linguine or fettuccine
flat-leaf parsley (leaves and all stems), finely chopped
If using canned beans (see Author Notes), skip to step 3 (you’ll also skip 3 of the garlic cloves). Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Smash and peel 3 garlic cloves and use a peeler to remove 3 long pieces of zest from the lemon. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat and add the garlic and zest. Cook just until the garlic is starting to take on color on both sides, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans, then transfer to the pot and cover with 3 inches of water. Stir in 1½ tablespoons of salt and lots of black pepper.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot. Cook, checking every 40 minutes or so to replace water that evaporates, until the beans are creamy all the way through, about 2 to 3 hours depending on the bean size and age.
- Remove from the heat, let cool slightly, then stir in the vinegar. Smash any large chunks of garlic into the broth and pluck out the lemon peels if you’d like (they’re slightly bitter but totally edible). Drain the broth into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup and transfer the beans to a bowl. Alternatively, if making in advance, store the beans in their broth in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.
- Wipe out the Dutch oven and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it over medium heat. Add the panko to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the panko turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and use a Microplane to grate the remaining zest of the lemon into the pot. Stir to combine and transfer to a plate.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter in the first Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, then use a Microplane to grate 5 cloves of garlic into the pot. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until the onion has softened, about 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and fish sauce (if using).
- Add 1 cup of the bean broth to the onion mixture and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and the sauce reduces by about one-third, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Cook the pasta in the boiling water for about 3 minutes less than what the box says for al dente. (It will cook more in the sauce!)
- Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and use tongs to transfer the pasta to the sauce. Add all but a handful of the parsley. Halve the zested lemon and juice half of it into the pot. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges for serving. Toss aggressively with the tongs, cooking for an additional 3 to 4 minutes until combined and the sauce clings to the noodles. Gently toss in the beans. Cut the heat. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, and pepper flakes as needed.
- Transfer the pasta to a large shallow serving bowl (or individual bowls). Top with the reserved parsley and toasted panko.