Hurry Up Vegan: White Bean and Summer Vegetable Pasta

by Gena on June 28, 2011

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A few weeks ago, my DC family was kind enough to have me over for dinner, and even kinder to cook a bunch of vegan dishes for me. They all raved about how interesting it was to make vegan food: my aunt noted that it compelled her to try spices and flavor pairings she’d never thought of before, as well as some global accents that were new. They all had the same thing to say, though: “it’s cool cooking vegan,” my cousin remarked. “It just takes a ton of time.”

I guess “time” is a relative thing. Making vegan food, even if you take every shortcut you can, will never be as easy as nuking a microwave dinner (though nuking an Amy’s vegan burrito might compare). But can it be every bit as easy as making a standard omni dinner? It sure can. People are quick to confuse difficulty and novelty: it takes no more time to roast a squash than a chicken (less, actually), or to make lentil daal rather than meat sauce. The former dishes are just less familiar, so they feel time consuming and imposing.

I get tons of emails every day from readers who want to make more vegan food, but find themselves spending hours in the kitchen. Either this is because they’ve gotten overly ambitious with cookbooks and five course dinners, or because they simply need to be shown that vegan dinners can be ready in a jiffy. Today, I’d like to share what I hope will be the first of a few “vegan in a hurry” dinner ideas: meals that are healthy enough to appear here on CR, but also budget conscious, family friendly, and, most of all, fast. I’ll start with a seasonal dish: pasta with white beans, eggplant, and summer vegetables. The recipe utilizes canned legumes and tomato sauce and readily available produce, which means it’s easy to prepare. Just see for yourself.

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White Bean and Summer Vegetable Pasta (vegan, gluten free if you use gluten free pasta, soy free)

Serves 4

1 small eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes and lightly salted
1 clove garlic, minced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 can fire roasted or diced tomatoes (buy organic)
1 small can organic tomato sauce
1 tsp agave
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can white beans, drained

4 servings pasta, dry (my idea of a serving is usually more than a boxes’ idea of a serving)

1) Heat a large skillet with olive or coconut oil spray (or just use a few tbsp water). Sautee the eggplant with the garlic till the eggplant is getting nice and brown (about 8 minutes).

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2) Add the zucchini and cook it till tender (another 5 minutes).

3) Add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, agave, basil, oregano, thyme. Heat through. Test for seasoning, and add more of whatever herbs you like.

4) Add the white beans and heat the whole sauce through. This is so tasty and simple, you could eat it on its own as a “cheater’s” ratatouille.

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5) While your sauce cooks, put a pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta when it hits a rolling boil, and cook pasta till tender but still a little al dente.

6) Drain pasta, smother with sauce, and dinner is ready!

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Delicious. Mine was served, not shockingly, with my miso sesame kale and tomato salad:

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I would like to eat this photo.

This recipe boats a few key time saving techniques:

1) Stock your pantry. Canned legumes, tomatoes, and dried herbs make it easy to eat healthy in a time pinch.

2) Don’t get too fussy. Yes, I could have slow roasted that eggplant and the sauce would be smokier, and yes I could make my own tomato sauce. But when forced to choose between a satisfying, healthy meal that’s doable, and a fantasy that isn’t, I’ll take reality.

3) Use familiar recipes. This is a classic: spaghetti and tomato sauce. But I add oomph to the sauce with veggies and beans for a protein boost. It’s the healthy vegan’s spin on a classic. Use recipe templates you know and love, guys, and apply your green cuisine savvy to them!

Hope this helps to show you how I manage to make weeknight suppers for me and people I love—vegans, rawbies, and omnivores alike—without getting too stressed.

What’s your favorite “hurry up vegan” supper? Tell me all about it!

See you back here tomorrow….


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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathi June 28, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I like to eat fried bean sandwiches. Fried up butter beans in a little oil. Set the beans aside and add a little more oil add garlic, red pepper flakes and swiss chard. Put fried beans and cooked colard greens on a baguette with a little splash of balsamic vinegar.


Victoria (District Chocoholic) June 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Tomatoes and eggplant go beautifully together, and there are so many seasoning combinations.

I like zucchini sauteed with onions, garlic, cumin, jalapenos, and pepper. Top with salsa. Devour.


Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table June 28, 2011 at 9:10 pm

When I first started eating a more plant-based diet I thought it was more time-consuming. For me, it was a matter of getting used to it. Now that I am comfortable preparing a variety of veggies and am used to thinking about meals a certain way, I can whip up something fun in a flash…

Like the Cherry-Balsamic Chickpea Salad I posted today (omit the cheese to make it vegan):


Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga June 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Thinking the vegan cooking takes tons of time and this statement: “because they’ve gotten overly ambitious with cookbooks and five course dinners…”

YES, I agree!

Putting down many (most) cookbooks and/or vegan cookbooks because they easily overwhelm is what I do. Well, I guess they overwhelm me :)

I am the queen of simple, easy, FAST meals and recipes b/c that’s my lifestyle (FT working mother) and I havent the time to be slaving over roasting my own tomatoes or slow-cooking anything or even using my dehydrator.

I could, sure, do all those things…but I don’t b/c i think homemade, or semi homemade, by using shortcuts whenever possible is the name of the game.

I love your tips: dont get too fussy and use recipes as templates and then build off them.

My quick vegan dinners usually involve big raw salads, tofu, or one-pot meals like lentils + tomato sauce + tons of random veggies thrown in, season/spices, stir, cook for 20 mins, make extra, and you get 2-3 dinners out of it for pennies and it took 20 mins. That’s how i cook :)


Faith @ lovelyascharged June 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

I love this, Averie!

I’m a single working 20something who’s trying to cultivate a social life, a long-distance relationship and a brand new career, so simple and easy is the way I have to go too. I spent a lot of time getting overcomplicated but I find that the best and most satisfying recipes don’t require loads of time, crazy ingredients or lots of fuss. And don’t even get me started on my love for one-pot meals!


Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn June 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Love. I can tell my cousins from Jersey would lahhhhve this recipe!


Sarah June 28, 2011 at 9:27 pm

When I am cooking for myself, my favourite dinners are roasted sweet potato with roasted broccoli and pan fried tofu (I like tofu plain with a bit of salt and pepper, just as much as marinated, because I am weird like that).

When cooking for my husband and me, our favourite is probably palak channa (like channa masala, only with heaps of spinach in our case). For the two of us (we’re a hungry couple), we generally put together about 2 tins of chickpeas, 1 or 2 tins of diced tomatoes, 200 or 300 g frozen spinach, a chopped onion, heaps of garlic and Indian spices and chilli. Served over basmati rice and (in James’ case) scooped up with Lebanese flatbread that we always keep in the freezer. I find that the trick to making it taste gourmet – for me, because I am picky with my spices – is to make my own spice blend. I toss some cumin, coriander, black mustard and fenugreek seeds with a pinch of other whole spices I have on hand (e.g. dill seeds, fennel seeds, celery seeds, cardamom, etc.) in oil, grind it in an old coffee grinder and then go.

That’s generally my tip for anyone who thinks that making exciting vegan food takes time – learn to use spices and their many delicious combinations! Any quick meal can be made delicious and even somewhat fancy if you know how to season it properly. I had a roommate that was vegan and a former self-proclaimed ‘meathead’ bodybuilder. He had no clue what spices went together (we’re talking like putting basil and curry on ‘Mexican’ food), and his food was terrible. We all really wanted to get him an herb and spice wheel to hang on his fridge! (Like this:


Sarah June 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Oh, and don’t forget the tumeric. Tumeric is key to a delicious Indian meal. Plus my husband believes it has magical properties. I think he read somewhere that it fights cancer, and he won’t listen to me when I tell him how much he’d have to eat ;-)


Sasha June 29, 2011 at 11:01 am

Actually he’s onto something. Turmeric, according to Ayurveda a 5000 year old Indian medicine tradition, is a natural antiseptic and antioxidant. Just a pinch in everyday dishes is enough to reap its benefits.
(Oh yes, I’m Indian! :)


Shannon June 28, 2011 at 9:31 pm

I tend to cook large batches and freeze leftovers, so in a pinch I’ll pull out soup or chilli or lentil loaf, prep a salad or steam some veggies and I’m done I even have frozen, cooked beans because they’re cheaper and lower in salt than their canned counterparts.

I also like baked sweet potatos with advocado, black beans and salsa. Or a grain with steamed greens, beans of some sort and homemade tomato sauce on top. And sometimes I throw a few things in a pan and cross my fingers it turns out ok.


Ela June 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I love those tips at the end–so sensible and will help hugely in making this kind of cooking less intimidating. Because I grew up cooking vegetarian/vegan, I think omni cooking is more time-consuming! It’s all a matter of perspective.

One of my favorite quick cooked meals (as opposed to a salad or smoothie) is cooked-up yam with or without parsnip, mashed up with a little coconut oil and curry powder, then stir in thawed frozen peas and salad greens, and whatever other seasoning desired (nooch and smoky paprika is great) Yum!


Christine (The Raw Project) June 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Great tips and info in this post, thanks! I have so many wonderful recipe books with flagged recipes I want to try, but haven’t yet because of limited time. At most I only have half an hour to spend on dinner on weeknights while cramming in gym time, blogging, chores, and down time with hubby.

The pasta looks wonderful and simple, I need to try this and make it for my traditional mom.

My favorite quick vegan dinner are usually stir fries with tempeh, tofu, chickpeas, etc.


Mountain Girl (Eat Hike Sleep Repeat) June 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm

I ate high raw for a while, and when I started I got caught up in the “gourmet” recipes that required soaking, dehydrating, and generally a lot of forethought. However, I now find that with clean, quality ingredients, simple is best. Bean salads are a new favourite, stir fries are always a good stand by, and a big tray of roasted veggies topped with a bit of flax oil, lemon and nooch is perfect for a cooler or rainy day. Even with simplicity, I am a way more creative in the kitchen since having gone vegan.


Emilia @ Namaste Gurl June 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Mmmm, I love pasta with white bean and veggie sauce. I make that all the time for my “go- to” spaghetti with either white beans, garbanzo, tvp, or even lentils!
Great minds think alike :)
My other favorite go- to meal is sauteed garlic greens, quinoa or other grain and beans or tempeh :)


J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) June 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

That looks fantastic! I love beans and pasta. I grew up eating pasta e fagioli and minestrone soup and pasta with olive oil, broccoli and garlic– never realizing that they are vegan until a few years ago.


Arielle (Your Vegan Girlfriend) June 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Totally agree that people think eating and cooking vegan takes so much more time. It’s so funny that it actually takes way LESS. I actually enjoy cooking so much more now that I am vegan than I ever have in the past. Something about being vegan and cherishing and celebrating all my meals just go together.

This recipe totally reminds me of the ratatouille bake i just made a few days ago. Love the simplicity and accessibility, per usu :) This dish would be great with tinkyada pene pasta yum yum!


Sylvia June 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Yeaah return of the kale salad!

Okay… I would argue that vegan meals are FASTER to prepare then meat dishes in most cases. Meat is something you have to tend to and cook for a long time, roast etc… and watch, make sure it gets cooked through.

Veggies on the other hand can be eaten raw as we all know, so no worries there. There’s nothing like throwing together a quick salad with a few raw veggies, a pre washed mix some EVOO and apple cider v, and then a nice bean/tofu stirfry curry or ratatouille like dish, and throwing on rice pasta for a fast carb! Thats what I do in a pinch.


Laura C June 29, 2011 at 12:01 am

My meals at home these days are just about all “hurry up vegan.” Sauteed flavored tempeh or tofu or beans with veggies, with some combination of nooch, avocado, spices, and/or vegan mayo on top. Usually asian or mexi flavored. Tonight I ate corn-flaxseed chips with quickie guac plus a kale salad and veggie burger. Last night we had waffles and veggie bacon. My current super fast packed lunch is a “salad” of cherry tomatoes, TJs shelled edamame, cucumber, avocado, and some combination of the above-mentioned add-ons. I try to keep my lunch and dinner very veggie-protein focused as I like to go for snacks that are more carby/sugary.


bitt June 29, 2011 at 12:03 am

This is sort of like a lot of our meals. I really am confused as to why people think eating vegan takes longer. I mean, these are the people who get up at 4am on thanksgiving to roast a bird? Sure raw can take longer if you want to dehydrate, but it’s not required. People who get caught up in too much “mock” meals, raw or vegan, can spend a lot of time. But for me, if I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it’s for fun as a hobby, not as a requirement. There’s lots of raw fast food: fruit is my favorite! Second, smoothies. You already do a great job showing that vegan and raw foods are quick, IMO but keep at it, girl!

ps: if anyone wants to know a good gluten-free pasta, tinkayada corkscrew are the best. trader joe’s version is simply these with their name too.


Gena June 30, 2011 at 8:02 am

Love Tinkyada, and LOVE quinoa pasta.


Ali (urbanfruitbat) June 29, 2011 at 12:24 am

This looks amazing! I think your best point is having a stoked pantry. Just keep things on hand, and you can whip up a quick pot of spiced lentils or roasted veggies. Awesome.


Tamar June 29, 2011 at 1:48 am

One of my absolute favorite “hurry up vegan” meals is to cook up some polenta (takes about 5 minutes) while in the meantime sautee some garlic and onions and greens (like chard or kale) in the pan, throw in some tomato paste, taco seasoning and kidney, pinto or black beans in the pan and mash them up into the greens and sauce, then just plate that mixture on the polenta and top with sliced avocado. Easy and satisfying!


Amanda June 29, 2011 at 2:34 am

i think i’ll be making the “cheater’s ratatouille” sometime soon :-)


Casey June 29, 2011 at 3:54 am

Salad and more salad! And mash made with steamed veg thrown in the food processor. Like this carrot and parsnip one…mmm…

Oh, and any veg cut up with a quick 2 mins in the blender or mash by hand dip :)


JL goes Vegan June 29, 2011 at 5:34 am

I’m loving white beans with the season’s bounty! This looks delicious.

I had to laugh about time being relative. My concept of time has changed since I started eating/cooking vegan. I was posting a bean recipe on BlogHer this morning and tagged it quick and easy. Because, to me, cooking beans in the pressure cooker is quick and easy — but now I realize that others might think I’m crazy! :)

I didn’t realize you had family in DC — that must be really nice for you!


Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count June 29, 2011 at 6:13 am

This sounds wonderful and uses two of my favorite things, eggplant and white beans! What a great idea! I agree with JL that time is relative for some people with cooking and eating healthy. You can also cook your beans in the crock pot for those without a pressure cooker. Most bagged dry beans have the directions on the bag these days. It’s so wonderful to have a big container of beans ready in the fridge. One of my easy go to recipes is a salad made with black beans from the crock pot. Mix cooled beans with salsa (fresh or jarred) and corn (again, fresh or frozen.) I like to add a little green Tabasco sauce to it also. I usually like to let the flavors combine overnight, but that’s not essential. Prepare your favorite combo of greens. Pour your portion of deliciousness over the greens. I’m not all the way to vegan yet so I sprinkle shredded fat free cheddar cheese over it and combine. Vegan cheese would work well also. I often made this for lunch when I was still working. Kept the bean mixture separate from the salad. People in the cafeteria were always asking me where I got it. They didn’t like the answer that I made it myself! Enjoy!!


Lauren June 29, 2011 at 9:17 am

Looks delicious! I like to add white beans to pretty much everything! And I have to try that dressing, yum!


melissa June 29, 2011 at 11:08 am

That’s very similar to how I make my favorite caponata! Yum!


theplanteater June 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

Here’s a super quick and delicious lentil curry dish I put together in under 15 minutes. And it’s cheap – I got everything for this dish at Trader Joes!


LauraJayne June 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I think “time” is all about perspective too. When I was first vegetarian, it definitely took time because I was learning how to cook new forms of protein and finding new recipes! Now I find it hard to cook a meal with meat – it would require so much thinking, not to mention expense!


Elina (Healthy and Sane) June 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Veggie pasta dishes are actually a lot faster than omni ones since you get to skip a step and use cooked canned beans instead. Every time I consciously make a vegan meal it does take me longer but the exact reasons you stated – I either cook for a 3-4 course dinner party or try something new (and complex) from a cookbook. But it definitely doesn’t have to be that way!


Hadley@HadleyHolistics June 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm

My favorite dinner-in-a-pinch is to quickly saute cubes of tempeh (with just some salt and pepper) and mix that with leftover brown rice and steamed veggies — and mix it all with a creamy tahini sauce. It’s the best!


Molly June 29, 2011 at 3:16 pm

When I’m cooking in a hurry, it’s usually for my boyfriend and his two kids, so the go-to quick meal is soft tacos of fat-free refried black beans, MorningStar Grillers Crumbles, chopped tomatoes, lettuce and fat-free high-protein whole-grain tortillas, (and cheese for the kids). The other option is noodles with marinara, to which I add cooked red lentils, and serve a green vegetable on the side. Super simple meals, but with the right seasonings and side dishes, they can turn out to be tasty, filling and fairly healthy.


Johanna June 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

My “hurry up vegan” is to simply boil quinoa and red lentils, chop some veggies during the cooking (usually bell pepper, carrot, kale) and the serve with either just some olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, or stir in some bought vegan friendly pesto. Top with nuts/seeds and yum yum. :)


janet June 29, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I love your dish. I made something so similar, quinoa and red lentils filled with cabbage and carrots, spiced with dill and miso. The base of the quinoa and red lentils were wonderful! The veggies and flavours are endless. :)


Johanna July 3, 2011 at 10:08 am

Thanks! I checked you your blog and recipe also, it looks totally awesome! Definitely gonna try to make your version soon. :) Have you tried to freeze you dish? D’you think it will work out?


Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty June 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Hey Gena,
I’m SO excited you came to visit my blog!! :) Thank you!!

I’m so excited to have found your blog again! I’ll be following you via facebook!! :)


Gena June 30, 2011 at 8:00 am

Ha! I love your blog. I rarely get to comment now with premed life, but I’m reading :)


Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles June 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

I’m loving the use of summer vegetables!! Farmer’s markets are starting up here in New England and I can’t wait to be able to cook meals from ingredients bought locally.

I feel like people trying to cook vegan try to make it fancier than it is because it hasa label. If someone were to cook an Italian meal, it sounds way more time-consuming and difficult than if someone were to cook pasta. Just like if someone were to cook a vegan meal, it’s different than cooking beans, veggies, and pasta. As a busy student, I love quick and easy meals but I never sacrifice taste. One of my time-saving tips is to cook a few meals once a week and put them in tupperware. Then you have them to grab and go or heat up in the microwave. Supplement with some quick meals midweek, and some salads (of course), and you’re fed for the week!


janet June 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm

What could be easier than swiss chard wraps, hummus, kale salads, bean salads and stir fries?

This is one of my favourite quickie dinners: a warm chickpea and artichoke salad


janet June 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that with vegan cooking, sometimes it takes longer to clean up than to actually cook! :)


FoodFeud June 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Are all organic canned things going to be BPA free? I found numerous organic canned beans today but only one can specifically said “BPA free lining.”


Gena June 30, 2011 at 8:00 am

No, they’re not. They’ll say BPA free if they are. I always aim for that, but it doesn’t always happen.


Cat @ TheSplitPinDiary June 29, 2011 at 11:10 pm

It’s exactly what you say – novel not difficult. It’s simply the mental effort that goes into menu planning when you’re new to vegan cooking that is time consuming. Everything else really is the same. And baked veggies take less time than roast meat, so in my house we get roast dinners ALL the time! 1/2hr and we’ve got a big tray of delicious vegetables :)

I’ll admit I found it surprising to see a non-raw pasta dish on CR, it strikes me as something quite different for you. But I like it nonetheless and all that eggplant and squash is just the sort of thing that will tempt me. Yum!


Gena June 30, 2011 at 7:54 am

Ha! I love pasta, but it’s something I tend to eat when I’m cooking for others, not just me. A little more group-friendly than zucchini pasta.


Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Very true – I served my partner zucchini pasta (which I love!) and he wasn’t exactly blown away, asking that I stick to the ‘normal things please’. Oh well, more for me!


Sarah June 30, 2011 at 6:50 am

Love it!

When I’m in a hurry our go to meal is a vegetable stir-fry sauteed in sesame seed oil, chinese 5 spice, tamari, fresh lime and often add some peanut butter. Then we just have the veg on rice. In fact, we will probably eat this tonight as I’m feeling lazy rather than rushed :)


Skye June 30, 2011 at 10:02 am

One of my favorite quick meals is a quesadilla made from a whole wheat tortilla, mashed sweet potato (cooked in the microwave), black beans or vegetarian refried pinto beans and cilantro- cooked in a frying pan and topped with Frontera salsa (cilantro flavor). I would never have thought to put sweet potato in a quesadilla but one of my friends made it for me and it’s really yummy!


Meghan @ StruggleMuffins June 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Holy smokes this looks good. I think I OD’d on pasta in high school and subsequently took a nine-ish year hiatus from the carb-y delight but I could see myself getting back into it – with a recipe like this. The combo of white beans, eggplant, tomaters (that’s right, tomatERS) and zucchini really speaks to me. Well done, Gena, well done!


fleur July 3, 2011 at 11:39 am

superfast chilli: can of kidney beans, few tomatoes, with stir fried fresh bellpepper, cumin, paprika powder, sweet onion. add veggie-stock (cube) and ketchup, vegan cheese on top and 3 minutes under hot grill. top with greek yoghurt, cilantro, avocado cubes and lime juice, some more cumin. mmm the best!!


Randy Waters July 28, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Made this tonight with a few small variations and loved it. It will definitely be on my repeat list! I added some red bell pepper, deglazed the eggplant with dry vermouth, and varied the dried herbs a little to taste. Wonderful and easy to make. Thank you so much.


Kristen November 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I just made this and it was perfect:-) My 10 year old- picky daughter- even ate it! Success!


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