Need an easy weeknight meal? This cheesy white bean tomato bake ticks all the boxes. A rich tomato sauce, creamy white beans and lots of gooey cheese make for a delicious dinner the whole family will love. Serve with fresh bread or focaccia to mop all the gorgeous sauce.
Confession time: I’ve never really been a fan of baked beans. But that’s because the only baked beans I’d had were from a can, with that kind of strange sweet taste, chalky texture and just not much flavour. Fast forward to now and I’ve discovered I actually LOVE a bean dish. Beans are high in protein, filling and cheap, so they’re a perfect staple to have in your kitchen. With a jar of beans and a can of tomatoes, you’re halfway to this delicious white bean bake.
It’s cosy, comforting, and ultra cheesy but packed with nutrients, thanks to the protein powerhouse beans.
The secret ingredient in this dish is ‘nduja paste. ‘Nduja is a spicy, smoky spreadable salami paste from Italy and it is such a go-to for me when it comes to injecting something special into a dish. It brings a smoky savoury note that you don’t get from tomatoes alone in this bake, and I’d 100% recommend trying to hunt some down.
This bean bake uses cupboard staples with a couple of special ingredients I’d urge you to find if you can.
- White beans. I love using jarred butter beans for this dish but any white bean will do. If you can, go for jarred as they’re a better quality bean, but if you can’t find any, tinned will be totally fine too.
- Tomatoes. I’m using two cans of plum tomatoes here – but you could also use crushed tomatoes or passata (puree).
- ‘Nduja paste. A spicy, smoky spreadable salami paste from Italy, the ‘nduja gives the dish a savoury depth and smokiness that is super addictive. It’s becoming more readily available in supermarkets (you’ll find it in the section with the cured meats) and you can also find it on Amazon. A little goes a long way with ‘nduja so if you pick some up, it’ll last you a good while in the fridge. You can replace the ‘nduja with smoked paprika or harissa paste if you can’t find it.
- Cheese. For the ultimate oozy, gooey result, I’m using two different kinds of cheese here. Parmesan brings the strong, sharp cheesy flavour, whereas the mozzarella brings the creamy and super oozy element to the bake. You can replace the cheese with whatever you have, but I recommend choosing a cheese that has a nice strong flavour.
- Spinach. I love adding some kind of green to this bake, and spinach is my favourite. You can leave this out though if you don’t have any – or use frozen spinach.
How to make the cheesy beans
Start by getting olive oil into a small pan and cooking down the shallot, garlic and ‘nduja paste for a couple of minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and dried thyme, then stir and simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the beans. Simmer for another 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens up.
Stir in the spinach leaves (they’ll soften and wilt into the sauce). Add the parmesan and mozzarella, then finish with a good grind of black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 180C/360F fan, or until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling.
Got a question?
Yes! Use 400g/14oz fresh tomatoes and just 1 can, or use 800g/28oz fresh tomatoes. You’ll just need to cook them down for longer in the pan.
Use any other bean you have – chickpeas (garbanzos), kidney beans and even black beans would work really well.
I love using good quality jarred white beans for this recipe – they’re juicy, plump and so creamy and I think beat anything from a tin. But, I know jarred beans can be tricky to find and are a lot more expensive than tinned beans, so tinned will be absolutely fine. Because we’re baking the beans no matter the brand, they’ll soften and take on the tomatoey flavour.
You could use cheddar in their place, or any other strong-flavoured cheese. A little blue cheese would be great here too.
You can! You can make the beans up until putting them in the oven, so add the cheese, then cover tightly with foil and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. You can do this 2 days in advance if needed.
You can also bake the beans, and then reheat them in the oven. Just cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 180C/360F Anything leftover will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. I love using leftovers in shakshuka, or on toast!
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If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave me a comment below.Print