Jacob’s Cattle Beans with Pasta and Greens

I love a bowl of beans! We grew up with Mom’s baked beans, a staple side at every family gathering, and often a weeknight supper. We also loved her creamy stewed yellow-eyed beans, cooked with salt-pork and served with milk to add an even creamier finish.

      I’ve cooked just about every bean I could find over the years, and I definitely have my favorites: Vermont cranberry beans (borlotti), pinto beans, the yellow-eyes, and the nutty and delicious Jacob’s Cattle Beans, which are as much fun to look at as to cook! 

A native treasure

Jacob’s cattle beans are one of hundreds of shelling beans native to North America, originating in Maine with the Passamaquoddy indigenous population. They have been popular in New England since Colonial times, but not much noticed anywhere else. They are widely available now from mail-order sources.

Aren’t they pretty?

      They get their name from the mottled markings on the mature dried beans which resemble a cattle’s markings! Deep burgundy in color, but they fade after soaking and cooking. They hold their shape well even in a long cook, which makes them great for many purposes.

      High in protein and fiber, these meaty beans are also a good source of calcium, iron, and potassium, and weigh in at only 100 calories for a half cup. 

To salt or not to salt?      

I used to wait until my beans were cooked before adding salt, cooking wisdom long dictated that the beans might end up with a tough exterior or stay hard if you added salt at the beginning. A couple of years ago, I read an article at the Serious Eats website and they had performed a test on salting the beans at various steps, and the best beans ended up being those soaked in salted water in addition to adding salt at the beginning of the cooking process. It made sense to me because my mother always made her beans with salt pork, a really salty element that she added right at the beginning of the cooking process. 

I tried the method many times, and it works great! Apparently, the chief culprit in hard beans that don’t ever soften is the age of the beans themselves.

 A little of this, and that

     In this recipe, I added garlic, something my mom never added to beans, and I loved it! I also rounded out the nutrition with a rutabaga (you could use butternut squash or carrots), some whole grain pasta, and some fresh and lively arugula. When I say I used two large handfuls, I mean as much as I could grab!

      The sage and the smoked paprika tie everything together. I salted the soaking liquid and the cooking liquid at the beginning of the cook with good results. The beans softened nicely, and had few bursts. I used a try-color brown rice pasta.

      This is a hearty recipe. If the leftovers absorb most of the liquid, just thin with a bit of water.

Jacob’s Cattle Beans with Pasta and Greens

  • 2 cups Jacob’s Cattle Beans
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large leek, diced
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper
  • 1 medium rutabaga, cubed
  • 2 tsp. dried sage leaves
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups cooked whole grain pasta
  • 2 large handfuls fresh arugula, baby spinach, or watercress

            Place the beans in a bowl, fill with water two inches above the beans, add the salt, and soak them overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse.

            In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the leek. Sauté until nicely softened, then add the garlic cloves. Continue cooking for a minute or so, then add the rinsed and drained beans, water, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

            Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover tightly. Cook for about 1 ½ hours. The beans should have softened, and there should be a lot of “pot liquor” or bean liquid still. If not, add some more water and lower the heat a bit.

Add the rutabaga, sage, paprika, and the white wine.

            Continue cooking uncovered until the rutabaga is tender and the liquid has thickened. Taste for seasoning, you will probably need to add a bit more salt. You should still have a nice amount of liquor in the pot.

            Add the pasta, and simmer an additional five minutes. Remove from the heat, add the greens, and combine. It will almost immediately wilt.

            Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, or perhaps a few grates of Parmesan, and serve.

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45 Comments Add yours

  1. bernlag says:

    Such a pretty bean. It is a shame that it doesn’t stay the markings don’t last after cooking

    1. I know! Like the cranberry beans, the exotic disappears and they end up just looking like a bean!

  2. Looks yummy. While my comfort is cooking them as gravy, this dish looks very yummy!

    1. Thank you! They turned out delicious!

  3. Looks absolutely delicious, dear Dorothy. We also love beans of every kind, and I’ve seen these cute ones in Whole Foods. I wonder whether they will lose their markings when sprouted (I sprout all beans but chickpeas).

    1. You will have to let me know! I recently bought some sprouted chickpeas and they were delicious! I had never seen them before.

      1. According to my husband’s nutritionist, chickpeas are the only beans that do not have to be sprouted, in terms of digestion. Sprouting beans is really very easy.

      2. Interesting Dolly, I’m glad to know that! I haven’t sprouted beans myself in years, and I’m not sure why I lost the habit!

      3. I got onto sprouting because my husband’s nutritionist stated that he was not allowed any beans (except chickpeas) unless they are sprouted. I cook with beans a lot so I had no choice but to learn.

      4. I’m so glad I know this now! I wonder why chickpeas are different.

      5. There are more gentle on digestion, i.e. they digest quickly.

  4. What a tasty and nutritious combination! The sage and the smoked paprika must add such wonderful aroma.
    Also love the addition of arugula towards the end – which I often do with pizza. So good!

    1. Thank you Ronit! I love tossing arugula in just about everything, soups, yes to pizza too, roasted veggies!

      1. A very tasty habit! 🙂

  5. I’m not acquainted with cattle beans so this was interesting.

    1. Now you will see them everywhere Judy!

  6. CarolCooks2 says:

    I am going to try your way of cooking and soaking beans, Dorothy as since living here I have not had much luck..it could be the age…but I will give them one more go…I can’t get rutabaga here …well I can but a tennis ball-sized one costs 2.78 dollars expensive imports ..but I can get pumpkin so could sub that :)…I also love beans 🙂

    1. Good luck! The pumpkin will be a great substitution. I have really come to the conclusion that it really is all about the age of the beans. There was a time, when I was still withholding salt until the end of cooking, and I made some yellow eyed beans in a pressure cooker. Even though I put them through a second cycle, they never got tender and I ended up throwing out the whole batch!

    2. CarolCooks2 says:

      I think you may be right my source for kidney beans as well as other foods I am convinced that they don’t buy A1 quality…I just shop for known brands now from there I am limited for the choice of shops here (1)and think maybe online will be the way to go for beans/lentils

  7. chef mimi says:

    Goodness. I thought I’d cooked just about every bean out there. Love them all, except for anasazi. But I’ve never heard of these! They really are pretty! And I love what you did with them here.

    1. Thank you! They were delicious!

  8. How did I not know about cattle beans? 🤔🌿

    1. I’m not surprised, even in parts of New England, quite a few people haven’t had these! If they are not available in your area, look for them online.

  9. How unusual looking these are, I’ve never seen or heard of them!

    1. I don’t think they are widely available outside of the northeast, but you can get them on line from quite a few sources. They are worth looking for.

  10. I never heard of cattle beans!

    1. You know that you will now see them everywhere!

  11. Rekha Unni says:

    Looks yummy 😋

    1. Thank you, they were delicious!

  12. We love all beans in our house! I’ve used cattle beans before, but haven’t seen them in a long while. Since getting an Instant Pot a few years ago I have cooked beans even more than before, although there’s something to be said for a big pot of beans like the one in your post here simmering away on the stove. I would have not thought of adding the arugula, but it sounds really good and I’ll have to try it.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I’ve been adding greens to my beans for years, a little bit of freshness in a dish that has been simmered for usually hours in some way. It adds a nice element.

      1. Yes, I add fresh greensand or sliced scallions to beans at the end of cooking them too, but just never thought of arugula.

  13. Julia says:

    What a very pretty bean!

    1. They really are Julia! Too bad the color fades when they cook.

  14. Looks so yummy. I also agree with Julia, the beans are really pretty before cooked.

    1. Thank you! I always with these colors stayed through the cooking process. It’s the same with the beautiful purple pole beans I grow. They are gorgeous, but as soon as they steam, they turn green and look like any old bean!

    2. Thank you! It was really good, the leftovers too!

      1. We always have left over Sundays, that’s what we call it. Breakfast is made fresh on Sunday morning though.

      2. Sunday breakfast should be special! It’s especially important during this pandemic to help us remember what day of the week it is!

  15. Julie Zimmer says:

    This looks absolutely delish!

    1. Thank you Julie! It’s one of our family’s favorites.

  16. This looks like a delicious recipe, Dorothy. I’ve always liked beans.

    1. Thank you Robbie! We live Beans too, and I’m really glad they are so good for us!

    1. Thank you Sandra! It really is beautifully hearty and magnificently nutritious!

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