Welcome back to Thrifty Friday! Earlier this week, I had a chat with one of my girlfriends. We were foodie buddies in college, and now that we’re both married we do our best to swap relevant information as we navigate this whole young-and-newly-wed-and-trying-to-be-responsible thing. During the conversation, I expressed to her my surprise that certain meals I cooked left me feeling very satisfied, while my poor husband needed triple helpings to fill up. She replied, “I know! My husband is always telling me, ‘I need meat!'” (Skip to recipe for Pasta e Fagioli.)
As any grocery specialist (read:wife) knows, this exclamation isn’t necessarily welcome since meat is the most expensive item on the grocery list. From my limited store of knowledge, I suggested that she try substituting beans since they’re also rich in protein. Then–because I’m slightly addicted to research–I thought I’d be a little more scientific about the whole matter of satiation (that is, feeling full) and the different aspects of food that play into it.
While satiety is a complex topic–partially because it can depend on individual variables such as endocrine levels–it seems from my reading the best predictors of satiety are high protein and high fiber content. Hence, although they may fall into the category of humbler foods, meals with beans, and rice, and whole grains will keep you feeling the most full. Also, some studies suggested higher water content played into the feeling of fullness, but the feeling goes away more quickly. (I’ll include some of the more interesting articles in a reference section at the end of the post.)
So, armed with this new intelligence, I selected a family favourite recipe including plenty of protein and fiber. Now, you can add other vegetables or Italian sausage, but for the sake of thrift I am giving the version with the fewest ingredients you can use and still have it be pasta e fagioli:
2 tbsp. olive oil ($0.05)
1 tbsp. minced garlic ($0.15)
1/2 onion, chopped ($0.25)
1 – 15 oz. can tomato sauce ($1.00)
1 – 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes ($1.00)
2 – 15 oz. canned cannellini beans ($1.44)
1/2 lb ditalini pasta ($0.60)
2 generous shakes of Italian seasoning (~$0.05)
some oregano (maybe a tsp. or two) (~$0.11)
some thyme (about a tsp.) (~$0.38)
1 bay leaf if you have it (this might be $0.02?)
rosemary is good (1/4 tsp. ish) ($0.05)
salt to taste
Heat up your water for ditalini in a saucepan and cook that as directed… you can under cook them a little because they’ll soak up juice from the soup.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, cover the bottom of your pan with olive oil and heat it up, then throw in your garlic and onion to saute. When the onions are translucent, you can add your tomato sauce/crushed tomatoes and let that start warming up. You can also add your seasoning at this point.
Open/drain both cans of cannellini beans. ONE of the cans then gets pureed in the fashion of your choosing… blender, mash-a-baggie, ninja, magic bullet, whatevs… the other one goes into the sauce whole. When the pasta is cooked, add that as well as most of the pasta water. I know “most” is a relative term… I’d say upwards of 3/4… it depends on if you want the pasta e fagioli more soupy or more like a stew. I like mine a little more soupy. Just remember, it’ll thicken the longer you let it sit, whether cooking or in the fridge. The ditalini is very thirsty.
Most everything is cooked when you put it in, so in theory it’s ready to serve as soon as it’s heated through. I like to let mine sit a little while and let the seasoning really get a foot hold. (You’ll probably want to keep adding water if you let it cook down. Chicken stock/broth works too if you want a little protein boost.)
Shown to the left, as per myfitnesspal. [Disclaimer: this is entered to the best of my ability, but the software does not always allow me to enter ingredients exactly… and I don’t always measure exactly! Also, in this particular recipe I cannot account for using the pasta water, which I believe adds to the carb/caloric content.]
[References regarding satiation:
What makes us feel full? The satiating power of foods
Foods With High Satiation]