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whole-grain pasta with escarole & white beans

Recently I was testing recipes for the galactagogues chapter of Parents Need to Eat Too. I see you scratching your head—either you were never a nursing mom with supply problems, or you’ve blissfully erased that episode from your memory. A galactagogue is something that stimulates or promotes the production of breastmilk—if you’re unlucky enough (as I was) to have a body that doesn’t produce adequate milk to sustain your baby, a galactagogue may be the answer. During the first seven weeks of my son's life, as I tried and failed and tried again to nail down what’s supposed to be a simple, natural process, I learned an awful lot about galactagogues from a variety of lactation consultants. And thanks to the research I’m doing for the book, I now know even more.

Whole grains, greens, and beans are considered lactogenic foods. This little dish uses all three, and it has the added benefit of being ready in just about 30 minutes.

Have no fear if you’re not a nursing mother, or if you are but you’re not looking to increase supply. One meal, even two, won’t turn you into a dairy cow. On the other hand, given how good this tastes, it might be worth it to moo, briefly.

Quick Pasta with Escarole & White Beans
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped small
2 pounds escarole, roughly chopped, washed, and drained—leave some water clinging to the leaves
Salt & pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes, more if you like heat
One package (14.5-16 ounces) cut whole grain pasta
2 cups cooked white beans plus 1/2 cup cooking liquid, or 1 can no-salt-added white beans, drained, 1/2 cup of the liquid reserved
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

  1. Put a large pot of salted water, covered, on to boil.
  2. While that’s going, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so, just until the aroma fills the kitchen. Add the escarole by the handful, stirring and adding more as it wilts, until it’s all in. Stir in salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Cover, reduce the heat, and let it simmer while the water comes to a boil.
  3. Cook the pasta according to package directions. About five minutes before it’s done cooking, add the drained beans—not the liquid—to the escarole. Stir and re-cover; let it simmer while the pasta finishes cooking.
  4. When the pasta’s ready, drain it and toss it into the sauté pan—if it’s not big enough to hold everything, return the pasta to the big pot and add the escarole and bean mixture. Mix it all together over low heat and add some of the bean liquid. It’s ready when it looks saucy and the temptation to grab a fork and dig in is overwhelming.
  5. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Debbie Koenig is a food writer who blogs at Words to Eat By. Her first cookbook, Parents Need to Eat Too: 150+ Simple, Healthy Recipes for Sleep-Deprived, Frazzled New Moms & Dads, will be published next year by HarperCollins.


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