Pasta of the Week, Pantacce and Borlotti Beans with Rugola. I Can’t Believe it’s Vegan

Lots of Italian food is vegan by nature and vegan by tradition but you never see it labelled as such. And that, in my opinion, which is neither humble or otherwise, is a good thing. I can’t stand labels. Most of the food you will read about on my blog is vegetarian, but I rarely mention that word in the post. I firmly believe that once we do away with labels- vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, omnivore, ethically farmed (hallelujah) and heaven forbid, Paleo- the culinary world will be a better place. A good recipe tempts the taste buds with the summary of its parts and its visual tease.

Another version of Pasta e Fagioli

I’ve tasted very good vegan food in restaurants without that little colour- coded ‘v‘ in the corner to guide me, many a fine Italian antipasto and primo, as well as lovely traditional Indian, Greek and Middle Eastern dishes. Last Saturday I joined the throngs at the popular A1 bakery in Brunswick and ordered the Ful Mesdames platter. It  was comprised of a large bowl of semi mashed warm Ful,( dried fava beans recooked) dressed with a few chick peas, olive oil, parsley and sumac, sitting on a wooden board full of extras, gherkins, pink turnip pickles, warmed middle eastern bread cut into quarters, and a generous side salad of tomatoes, lettuce and onion. It was a surprising bargain for $8, a dish that would generously feed two people. No v word in sight. The stuff that parades as vegan around the cooler traps of Melbourne is either bland or highly processed and appeals to those whose taste buds are still transitioning from childhood to something else. The newly converted may need a label to spur them on. The best vegan food is never described as such. Look at the wonderful Italianesque recipes of Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of The River Cafe fame, whose simple vegetable based recipes make me drool at the thought, sending me running to the kitchen garden. Again, no v word required. Good food is based on fresh seasonal ingredients, combined with a solid understanding of the role played by complementary herbs and spices, then presented in such a way in such a way to excite the diner.

This week’s Pasta Della Settimana ( pasta of the week) came about thanks to the current seasonal offerings from my garden- abundant rocket, fresh borlotti beans, tomatoes, garlic and chilli. It’s a solid meal for a cooler day. It’s another take on Pasta e Fagioli, that classic Italian dish that has moved up the ranks from Cucina Povera to bourgeois heaven. It can be deveganised by adding some finely grated parmigaino or any other animal based shavings you might fancy.

Pantacce pasta

Today’s pasta of the week calls for Pantacce, a mini bite sized lasagna pasta shape with a diagonal cut and a frilled edge along one side. These shapes are made by Molisana, another brand of pasta I sometimes use. It’s a versatile shape that goes well with most sauces. My garden inspired the rest. In this recipe, the beans are the main star, with a small handful of pasta per person to help unite the dish, providing a farinaceous element for the hungry.

Pasta, borlotti freschi e rugola.  Pasta with fresh borlotti beans and rocket.

Ingredients. Once again, this recipe is descriptive, not prescriptive.

  • Fresh borlotti beans, cooked slowly with a handful of herbs, a pinch or two of salt and a drizzle of oil. If you can’t access fresh borlotti, use dried beans and cook them slowly so they don’t split or go soggy.
  • Pantacce pasta, a lasagnette shape made by Molisana or any other medium-sized short pasta shape. I have used one large handful per person as I wanted the beans to star.
  • Some left over home-made tomato sugo, a few tablespoons per person. If you don;t have fresh tomatoes, use a good quality, thick tomato passata, cooked with a little garlic and oil.
  • finely chopped garlic to taste.
  • one finely chopped fresh chilli or a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes.
  • EV olive oil
  • fresh oregano, finely chopped.
  • fresh rugola ( rocket) torn.


  1. Boil pasta in abundant salted water until al dente. Keep back some of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a wide and deep pan, add some olive oil to the pan and heat it on medium. Add the garlic, chilli, and oregano. Stir about for one minute then add the tomato sugo or passata, a few tablespoons per person. Stir through the beans, season well, then add the cooked pasta. Use a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce. The dish needs to be well sauced. Bring the dish to high heat, stirring, then add the rocket and move it about until it wilts. Serve hot with a drizzle of good oil.

    Pasta e Fagioli, many ways to enliven a traditional dish.

Footnote. Sometimes I mention brand names in  my posts. I don’t receive any recompense for this, although if some came my way, I wouldn’t say no. Some Australian readers have been asking about brands of pasta to use and so I have decided to mention a few in these pasta posts. De Cecco is still my favourite.


16 thoughts on “Pasta of the Week, Pantacce and Borlotti Beans with Rugola. I Can’t Believe it’s Vegan”

    1. I could turn Vegan, if it wasn’t for cheese. ( and maybe butter) I once had a teenage girl visit for a pool party – one of my granddaughter’s friends. She asked politely if I had something vegan she could eat- all the others were snacking away on things they had brought along for the day. I rustled up something from a meal we had the night before. But later, I noticed her hoovering the butter laden garlic bread that someone had prepared. As it turns out, she was only Vegan for a few hours that day. My 8 year old granddaughter is now Vegetarian, just like her mother, but is still very partial to bacon. My point is that labels can be very limiting. Although I might claim I am a pescetarian, just watch what I eat when Mr finely cut Prosciutto enters the room, or on those awful days when I have a hangover and can only dream of sausages!!!


  1. Laughing and clapping again, Francesca! What a fabulous recipe and another lesson on available pasta shapes . . . so agree with you about ‘labels’ – could you please send this post to Pete Evans! ‘Paleo’ for me is also the worst of the lot! Yet he has no problems in ‘enjoying’ all else put in front of him by the ‘drama queens’! Yes, I watched till now when time available! I am one to love both meat and fish . . . . when a dish is ‘filling’ at a time required I would not even notice the lack of the latter . . . . the beans and pasta surely will make anyone feel satiated . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t even mention Pete Evans- such an annoying celebrity an so f… self righteous. I read an article about him in a doctor’s waiting room and nearly vomited on the spot. Ok enough of that! beans and pasta are rather filling. I like to update the old Italian classics so they don’t get boring.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So much of the origin of vegan/vegetarian meals is poverty – certainly my parents in their villages in Italy could not afford meat, it was a huge luxury. But hasn’t that turned out to be a good health outcome in the long run!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s a vegan restaurant in our town that would profit greatly from reading this post! They rarely make what I would call “traditionally vegan” dishes (that is, the kind you are talking about) but make all kinds of standard comfort food with unappealing substitutions for the non-vegan ingredients. They especially love cashew cheese and soy milk.

    Wonderful post!!

    best, mae at

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such glorious, simple , wonderful fare ….i adore food made from just a few delicious ingredients , and combined with Pulses and Pasta … Blessed with a scatter of an Italian Masterpiece Cheese ….a succulent FRESH garden salad with my favourite Rocket and Tomatoes and Consecrated with Red and Golden liquid Italian magic to tantalise the palate ..and tempt the Soul …and not a V word in sight ….OHHH YUM !!

    Liked by 1 person

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