Stanley Tucci’s Weeknight Tomato Pasta

When Stanley Tucci came on the Desert Island Dishes podcast a few years ago he told me about this amazing pasta dish that he cooks all the time. It’s kind of like a Pasta Fagioli – I now make it all the time and it’s so delicious. I realised I never shared it with you before so it’s about time. Listen to Stanley Tucci’s episode of Desert Island Dishes wherever you get your podcasts.

You may have heard Stanley talking about his slightly more famous pasta of which he spoke in his hit series Searching For Italy and you can find that linked hereThis pasta might be the less famous brother of Stanley’s pasta but it is super delicious and perhaps a bit more weeknight friendly.

What goes into this recipe?

Pasta is a versatile staple loved worldwide for its convenience. Made from durum wheat, it comes in various shapes and sizes, offering lots of possibilities for dishes. This recipe uses spaghetti and is the backbone of the dish, making it affordable and filling. Opt for wholewheat pasta if you want to bump up the fibre of this dish.

Cavolo Nero, also known as Tuscan kale or black cabbage, is a dark leafy green vegetable. Its robust and earth flavour is delicious in all forms. Packed with nutrients like vitamins A, K, and C, as well as antioxidants, it’s the perfect addition to this pasta.

Cannellini Beans are a type of white kidney bean, are creamy and mild in taste. Rich in protein, fibre, and essential minerals, they are a nutritious part of this recipe. These beans hold their shape well when cooked, making them perfect for pasta dishes and means they last well even as leftovers.

Tomatoes are a cornerstone of so many recipes. They come in various shapes, sizes, and colours, each imparting a great flavour profile—sweet, tangy, or even slightly acidic. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, tomatoes are incredibly versatile and add some brightness and body to this recipe.

Parmigiano Reggiano, often referred to as the “King of Cheeses,” is a hard, aged cheese known for its nutty, salty flavour and grainy, salty texture. Produced only in certain regions of Italy, its quality and taste are unparalleled. This means it is packed with umami and adds a certain saltiness and flavour to the recipe that is hard to mimic otherwise.

In a pasta dish like this recipe, you can use various types of beans, depending on your taste but also what you have in the cupboard. Here are a few options and why they might work well:

Cannellini Beans:

Why: Cannellini beans are the classic choice for this. They have a creamy texture and mild taste, making them versatile in various pasta dishes. They absorb flavours well and hold their shape when cooked, adding substance to the dish.

Borlotti Beans:

Why: Borlotti beans have a slightly nutty flavour and a creamy texture when cooked. They’re pretty too, due to their pinkish-red speckled appearance, and they add both taste and texture to pasta dishes.

Kidney Beans:

Why: Kidney beans, especially the light red variety, can work in pasta dishes. They have a stronger flavour and a slightly firmer texture compared to some other beans, adding a hearty bite to the dish.

Black Beans:

Why: While less traditional in Italian cooking, black beans can be used for a twist in pasta dishes. They have a slightly earthy taste and hold their shape well, providing a contrast in colour to the pasta.

  • Yield: Serves 4


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1/2 bunch cavolo nero, stems removed and just the leaves roughly chopped
  • 3 tins cannellini beans
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 450g spaghetti
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino, for serving


Pour a glug of the oil into a pan and sauté the onion and garlic over medium-low heat until soft. Add the beans, stock, and marinara to the pan with the onion and garlic and stir together. Cook over low heat.

At the same time, boil the cavolo nero in a small pot of salted water. When soft, strain it, add it to the bean mixture, and stir. Continue to cook on a low simmer with the lid askew for about 15 minutes.

Remove half the mixture and puree it – set aside. Boil the pasta in salted water according to the directions on the package. When it’s done, strain it, reserving about a cup of the water,

Place spaghetti in a large bowl – add about 1 cup of the bean mixture to the pasta along with 1 cup of the pureed mixture. Add some of the pasta water if it needs it.

Salt to taste. Add more bean mixture to each bowl along with a drizzle of oil. Sprinkle with pepper and Parmigiano.

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