Butterbean Gratin with Spinach and Pancetta


Pantry Raid Recipe #1.

There is a television show in America called “Chopped”.  In the show, a group of competing chefs receive a basket of mystery ingredients.  Then they have to create a meal out of the items they were given.

If my house were a basket, then my basket of mystery ingredients would be overflowing.  There are odds and ends of dried goods, things in the freezer, things in the refrigerator about to go bad, a can or two of this or that…I’m sure you get the idea.

So this recipe was made with my “basket” ingredients.  A tiny amount of almost forgotten chopped pancetta, a handful of spinach, a lonely can of butterbeans.  A strip of Kombu (which is a type of seaweed known to counteract the the less social consequences of eating beans), and some remaining shredded cheese.


And WOW! It was good!  Really really good in fact! So let’s fearlessly explore the back of the cupboard and dive into the deepest recesses of the refrigerator to find what culinary treasures are waiting. (a lot of the amounts are approximate – using up what I have!)


Butterbean Gratin with Spinach and Pancetta

1 can butterbeans, rinsed and drained

1 oz chopped pancetta (approximate)

1 small strip kombu, about 2 x 5 inches)

handful spinach (kale would work also)

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 T minced onion (approximate)

1 roasted pepper from jar, diced

lots of dried herbs, like oregano, thyme and basil

1/2 C broth (I used chicken broth from open container)

1/2 C breadcrumbs

3/4 C shredded cheese (approximate)

olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F

Brown pancetta in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the strip of kombu when the pancetta is almost browned.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium low and toss in the handful of spinach, roasted pepper, garlic, and onion.  Saute until onions are soft, and remove kombu.  Stir in butterbeans, broth, and as much herbs as you want.  Chop kombu and return to skillet.

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, herbs, some salt and pepper, and enough olive oil to make a crumb texture.  The crumbs I used are gluten free, so they didn’t get very brown.

When the broth hits a bowl, turn down the heat and simmer for just a few minutes.  Not too long or your beans might get tough.

Transfer bean mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in

Stir in about 1/2 C of cheese.  The mixture will seem quite liquid, but will tighten up after cooking.

Return the bean mixture to the skillet, top with rest of cheese, and then spoon the bread crumbs on top.

Cook on middle rack for 15 – 20 minutes, or until it begins to bubble up around the edges and the top is browned and crispy.


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