I’m finding this rainy weather in Southern California so pleasant and a big bowl of my Smoky Red Bean, Orzo and Bacon Stew makes the perfect dinner on a chilly evening. I crave a good bowl of beans when it’s drizzling outside, especially sitting in a tomato based broth that has smoky highlights from paprika. Orzo turns this stew into something that tastes like an American version of Pasta Fagioli, pasta with beans, but my recipe has baby spinach for a hit of greens, and it’s topped with crunchy bacon for a kick of salty fun. A one-pot meal during the week makes mealtime easy, and you can adapt this recipe for an electric pressure cooker if time is tighter than you anticipated.
I began by crisping up chopped bacon and removing it from the pot, before adding an onion to sauté until translucent. The red beans I soaked with a “quick soak method”. This is done by adding dry beans to a pot and covering with water. Heat until boiling, then remove from heat and cover with a lid for at least 30 minutes, then drain. The beans, tomato puree and broth we’re added to the stew to simmer away just shy of an hour, before the orzo and more broth were invited to the stew. The spinach leaves were folded-in about 10 minutes before cooking was complete, giving it a fresh taste and some added vitamins.
I ladled the stew into bowls and topped them with crispy bacon before serving. This recipe makes a big batch and the leftovers are excellent for lunch or another meal. You can make this in an instant pot, but don’t add the orzo until the beans are completely cooked. You can always substitute orzo for a small pasta like ditaltini, pastina or mini penne – just cook until al dente in the brothy beans.
6 slices bacon, chopped into 2-inch pieces
8 ounces red beans, soaked
1 white onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
1 quart chicken broth, divided
14 ounces crushed tomatoes, I used fire-roasted
2/3 cup orzo or whole wheat orzo
4 cups baby spinach
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, add chopped bacon and place over medium heat. Cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon and place on a paper towel lined plate. Drain most of fat from pot, leaving 1 teaspoon.
- Add onion and stir. Sauté for 4 minutes, then add cumin, salt, paprika, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute and add 3 cups broth and tomatoes, stir. Place lid on pot and reduce heat to low/simmer. Cook for 55 minutes, or until beans are done.
- Add orzo and remaining broth, cover with lid and cook for 7 minutes. Remove lid and add spinach. Fold spinach into stew and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls and top with crispy bacon pieces. Enjoy!