As with most families these days, I have some vegetarians in mine. Being the conscious cook, I decided to try and make a vegetarian version of baked beans that would be so delicious that no one would miss the pork or even realize something was different. I based the beans off a hearty Italian tomato sauce, and added every non-meat based version of umami I could think of. Within 5 minutes of getting to the annual 4th of July party, my vegetarian aunt reminded me that she hates beans. Oh well! These beans were worth it anyways.
I like to use a mixture of beans to get all sorts of different textures going on in the final dish, especially when there isn't gonna be chunks of meat floating around. Cannellini beans practically fall apart to help thicken the sauce but also add super creamy chunks of bean. The roman beans are the gold standard of baked bean beans. Black beans have the best flavor of the bunch, and the chickpeas retain their texture the most.
Tons of veggies add the deep flavors that we would be lacking without pork. Get the onions browning before adding zucchini.
Mushrooms go in next.
Then garlic once everything has a nice brown tint.
Even brown up the tomato paste!
The soaked beans in the mix.
Add in some oregano, brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard. Fill with water and get them into the oven! After they baked about 6 hours I cooled them down quick and let them chill in the fridge overnight.
My beans weren't quite tender yet, so I let them cook another 5 hours in the slow cooker. Beans cooking times seem totally random to me, so yours might be tender already. If so, just get them heated up. Add half the parm at this point too.
When they are ready, add the rest of the cheese and taste for seasoning. Feel free to add more salt, parm, mustard, or brown sugar, as needed.
That's quite the plate! These beans were very savory and full of the umami flavors that I was worried would be missing. they had a nice familiar taste that was reminiscent of a hearty tomato sauce combined with a hint of bbq.
Hope everyone had a nice holiday! I clearly did.
2 cups dried roman beans
1 cup dried black beans
1 cup dried cannellini beans
1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 stick of butter
2 large onions, diced
3 zucchini, diced
8 oz mushrooms, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
6oz can tomato paste
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup red vinegar
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups grated parm
Pick through the beans making sure there are no rocks or broken or shriveled beans in the mix. Soak overnight in plenty of water. Strain and rinse.
Saute the onion in the butter with salt until just lightly starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Add in the zucchini and cook another 10 or so minutes until everything looks a shade or two darker. Add the mushrooms and cook another 7-10 minutes. It should look like the pictures above.
Add in the garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir well until everything is coated. Cook 3-5 minutes stirring often. Add in the crushed tomatoes and mix to combine everything. Stir in the oregano, vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar. Mix in the beans, and add a solid 3-5 cups of water until the beans are well covered by a thin liquid. Cover the pot and toss it in the oven. Bake at 300 for 6 hours, checking every few hours and adding water if needed. (you can do this on the stovetop if needed, or in a slow cooker, but I like doing this stage in the oven because I think it makes for a better flavor and is easier.)
Check the beans for tenderness (just so you know what you are dealing with tomorrow) and cool them down quickly. I poured them into a cold slow cooker pot and used a zip-lock bag full of ice to stir them with just to make sure they cooled quickly and safely. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, get them into the slow cooker on high and stir in half of the parm. Depending on how tender or not tender they are, do this only an hour or two before the party, or as early as 4-5 hours before. Mine needed a full 4 hours to be the texture I desired.
When the beans are ready, stir in the rest of the parm and taste for seasoning. Add more parm, mustard, sugar, or salt, as needed. Serve hot with tasty grilled foods.