Caramelized Onion Black Bean Sauce.

I’ve been in the mood for pasta recently, but we’ve been getting sick of having the same old marina sauce on top week after week.  This week I set out to make something new – something different, and something unexpected.

This black bean sauce somehow manages to tasty creamy without actually using any cream.  The onions give a subtle sweetness, and the red pepper flakes bring the heat.  It is perfect over pasta or squash, or I could even see drizzling it over top of a burrito or Mexican tortilla bowl.  Or over NACHOS.  Holy cow.

Caramelized Onion Black Bean Sauce

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Ingredients:  (serves 3-4)

  • 1 large sweet yellow or white onion
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • pasta or squash to serve over
  • cheese for topping (optional)

Instructions:  Start by dicing onions and adding to a saucepan over low/medium heat.  They key to caramelizing onions is letting them cook LOW and SLOW.  This takes time.  And patience.

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My original plan for our sauce was to serve it spaghetti-squash style over this new little gem I found at the grocery store this week – a stripetti squash.  I had never cooked with one of these before, but my research told me that it should taste like a cross between spaghetti squash and delicata – yum!

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My first clue that the stripetti was in fact very different from the spaghetti squash should have come when I tried to cut it in half.  The outer shell was SO HARD, I literally could not get a knife through it.  I ended up having to swallow my pride and ask Casey for help, and then even he needed at least 15 minutes and a good arm workout to hack it into four pieces. 

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Okay back to the sauce.  Allow the onions to cook low and slow for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want them to be melt-in-your-mouth soft, and warm brown in color.

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Once the onions are ready, add black beans, water, bay leaf, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt.  Bring the mixture up to a simmer and then reduce heat to allow for just a slight simmer (uncovered).  Let mixture simmer for 30 minutes.

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While I waited, my squash cooked and I enjoyed coffee and a magazine on the couch with Indy.  If you look carefully you will see that my giant belly has become a nice cup holder.

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After letting the sauce cook for at least 30 minutes, remove bay leaf and transfer the rest of the mixture to a food processor (or blender).  Process until beans and onions are completely pureed.  Season to taste with salt.

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At this point I checked my squash to see if all my components were ready.  Imagine my surprise to discover that after an hour of baking it was still rock hard.  Guess what I learned this week?  Stripetti squash actually takes more like 2-3 hours to cook!  Good to know.

And good thing I had some extra brown rice spaghetti in the pantry.  I quickly boiled a box of it and improvised our dinner while my sauce patiently waited.

Finally, the pasta was ready, the sauce was served over top, and the whole bowl was sprinkled with Daiya pepper jack shreds (which were new to me, and kind of weird).

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This sauce is such a great alternative to traditional pasta sauce.  It is unexpected, with just enough slight sweetness and spice to make every bite interesting. 

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I think the possibilities for using this are truly endless.  Pasta, squash, salads, tacos, tofu – I can keep going…

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