White Bean and Kale Pasta with Smokey Bacon

Smokey bacon gives flavor and depth to a simple pasta dish including white beans and kale. It’s the perfect, comforting dish for a cold winter’s night and was slurped up by my family with relish. Inspired by similar Italian dishes, I love the contrast between the creamy white beans, the smokey bacon, the smooth pasta and the flavorful kale.

Why do we think that Italian pasta is centered around tomato sauces (though I do love marinara sauce)? There is a wide variety of sauces just waiting to be explored by the curious cook.

Two notes on the ingredients. Kale can vary in cooking time according to size and type. Keep that in mind. I used lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale, or Italian heirloom kale) after a consultation with my the produce lady at my local New Seasons store. If you can find it, use it is as it is not quite as tough and easier to cook.

Bacon. I always use nitrate free bacon. As I currently can have no cane sugar products, it has been challenging to find a bacon that is free from cane sugar products. While bacon is not a mainstay of our diet, we enjoy it once in a while. So it’s nice to have a brand that I can actually eat! I used Organic Prairie’s Hardwood Smoked Bacon for this project (it’s sweetened with honey). It’s one of the best bacons I’ve tried. It tastes real, with a very nice smokey taste. But regardless, buy a high quality, nice and smokey bacon for this recipe.

White Bean and Kale Pasta with Smokey Bacon

1 cup of white beans, soaked over night
1 1/2 cups of cooking water from the beans (add broth or water, if you don’t have enough)
1 bunch of kale
4-6 slices of bacon
12 ounces of penne pasta (I used brown rice pasta)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Sea Salt and Pepper

1-Rinse the soaked beans, and place in a pot with new water covering it. Bring to a low simmer and simmer until just soft. (1 to 1 1/2 hours). Make sure that the beans stay covered with water while cooking. Drain beans, saving the cooking water.

2- Start a large pot of water for your pasta. In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat. If using organic prairie’s bacon, I will sometimes have to add just a bit of olive oil at the beginning. Remove cooked bacon, and pour out extra grease, leaving several tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan.

3-Add the chopped onions to the bacon grease, and cook on low heat for five minutes, to give the onions a head start in cooking. Then add the kale, bringing heat up of medium high, and stirring occasionally. When the kale seems fairly wilted, add the garlic and cook for a minute longer. This is a good point to start your pasta cooking, salting the water before adding the pasta. Cook according to the package’s instructions.

4-Add the beans and the cooking water to the saucepan. Bring to a low simmer and allow to simmer for about 5-10 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld and the kale to soften to desired texture. At this point you will want to salt and pepper it to taste. Remember that when cooking from scratch you need to salt your dish more (pre-packaged food already has a lot of salt added to it).

5-To serve, pour your drained pasta into a large bowl. Follow that with the sauce, gently mix until the noodles are well coated. Crumble your cooked bacon on top, and grind a little more pepper on top. It’s ready to serve! You can also serve with grated parmigiana reggiano cheese.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. Badger says

    Oo, this sounds delicious! We’ve been getting a lot of kale from our CSA so I will have to try this soon (leaving out the beans, for my legume-allergic husband)!

  2. Michelle says

    This is a great example of swapping the meat ratio in meals. Instead of a hunk of meat with a little bit of pasta or veggies on the side, bacon is more of a topping. It’s cheaper, healthier, and totally flavorful. Nice idea!

  3. mommustwrite says

    This sounds so simple and tasty…it’s very tempting for me to swap this into this week’s meal plan, since I have tons of kale (and everything else it calls for) already in the house. Maybe next week!

  4. Vanessa says

    Hi there,
    I’m new to eating in a whole foods/nourishing way and was wondering if by white beans you meant any bean that is the colour white or if there is a bean called ‘White Bean’ (I haven’t cooked with beans often, if you couldn’t tell!)?

    I have navy beans and white kidney beans in the house – would either of these do?


  5. amy best says

    This seems to be a perfect idea- we eat legumes to save money, but my husband doesn’t really enjoy it. However, he loves pasta and bacon so it might go over really well! Looking forward to trying it!

  6. Kimi Harris says

    Hi Vanessa,

    Welcome! Great question. I think that many types of beans would work just fine in a recipe like this. The Italians use a variety of beans with pasta. I used great northern beans. From the two types you have on hand, I would probably go with the white kidney beans.

    Amy Best,

    “Bacon makes everything taste better” is a common quote around here, lol. 😉

  7. says

    mmm, can’t wait to try this, we get kale in our weekly produce share quite frequently. i’ve never used brown rice pasta, i like eden’s 60% whole grain flavored pastas. will be on the look out for br pasta to try some time…

  8. says

    Fantastic! We had it last night with some locally grown kale and local bacon.
    Kale can be bitter and/or strong, but the smokiness of the bacon and the creaminess of the beans tempered it perfectly. Thanks for the recipe!

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