Roman Bean Casserole

As we settle into the long, cold, dark days that come with the final slog through winter, we — your pals from The Awl and The Hairpin — will be bringing you some of our favorite casserole recipes (and crockery recommendations). But these won’t be just any old casseroles! No, no, that won’t do at all. These are fancy casseroles — or at least, not-gross ones.

Ave and happy Ides of March! If you haven’t been too busy being ware today, perhaps you might be interested in making a thematic vegetarian casserole or side dish to celebrate one of the more thrilling days of the calendar? What do you mean you’re not thrilled by the Ides of March?? Are you… defective in some way?

As a longtime Ides enthusiast — I once translated “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” into Latin for an Ides of March dinner party I hosted — it’s my pleasure to bring to you a recipe for this Roman Bean Casserole, which is just what Asclepiades would have ordered if she could have. It’s essentially a fancied-up version of baked beans and boy oh boy oh boy are they ever good! I serve them as a side dish with BBQ and vinegar greens, but you could certainly add some meat into the mix to create a one-dish supper (sliced sausage would be tasty, if I may make a suggestion). Friends, Roman Beans, Countrymen… lend me your casseroles, and let’s do this!

The first thing to do is to drain and rinse three 15 oz cans of Roman beans. You absolutely can use dried beans that you’ve reconstituted (constituted?) for this if you’re a person who prefers to do such things. I myself cannot ever seem to make dry beans work out for me and so I stick with cans, but perhaps you have the magical fruit touch! In which case, be my guest. You’ll need 1 pound of dried beans to equal three 15 oz cans.

Then you’ll want to mix up a fine sauce to pour over these beans of Roman origin. First the wettish things:

1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons brown sugar*
¼ cup pomegranate molasses (apple cider vinegar is the normal person’s substitute for this, but we’re not normal people, now are we? No, we are not. We are people who make thematic bean dishes on the Ides of March. Pomegranates, by the by, are very Roman.)
¾ cup vegetable broth, either from the store or your freezer
4 tablespoons — or about half a 6 oz can — tomato paste
Tabasco, a couple’a good shots

* If you opt to use the pomegranate molasses, you might want to consider cutting the brown sugar by half. You might not though! It’s really up to you to decide if you want things a little or a less sweeter.

Then to the wettish things you’ll stir in some dryish stuff:

1 teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon thyme

The combination of the pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika and thyme are what, in my opinion, make this dish so special. You still get all the sweet awesomeness of traditional baked beans but with a little something that makes it sophisticated, and therefore fancy. Which is what we’re aiming for here. Fancy. And thematic.

Put the beans in a lidded casserole dish, then pour the sauce over them, stirring well to combine. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. If baked beans are too saucy, bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.

Jolie Kerr should be stabbed 33 times for this nonsense.