Beet greens are a delicious, often discarded, ingredient. I use them often in my kitchen. This garlic beet greens recipe with orzo and cannellini beans is a staple for weeknight dinners.
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My weekends are never complete without a trip to the farmers market. We are lucky to have a huge market on Sunday mornings here in Sacramento. Not all the vendors are hyperlocal. In fact, some vendors come from as far as Southern California at various points in the season. But there’s a strong representation from the Central Valley and farms within a 60 mile radius. Some of my favorites include River Dog Farm, Capay Organic, Twin Peaks Orchards and Hearty Fork Farm.
Not only is the produce seasonal and fresh, much of it is extremely affordable. A few weeks ago, end of the season romanesco was selling for $1 a head! Compared to $2 something per pound at the local grocery store, it was a delicious bargain.
One of my favorite budget friendly tips for vegetable shopping is to seek out beet greens. Beets are often sold with their greens, especially at farmers markets. But few consumers know what to do with beet greens. As a result, greens are separated from the root and end up in the waste stream.
Over the last few months, there have been several occasions where I’ve found myself behind another customer discarding their beet greens. I always ask the vendors what they’ll do with the discarded beet greens. The most common answer is that greens are fed to the chickens or other animals.
But my favorite answer is, “Why? Do you want some?” OF COURSE.
As a result, I walk away with my vegetables, plus three or four bunches of free beet greens. I always try to pay something for the greens, but the vendors usually tell me that someone else has already paid for them.
When I’m not rescuing someone else’s beet greens as they walk away, I ask the vendors if they’ve collected any beet greens. They’re usually more than willing to hand over a bag or two.
After rescuing beet greens a few weeks in a row, I decided I needed to share a beet greens recipe with the world. One that’s not just a side, but a full meal.
Garlic Beet Greens Recipe with Orzo and Beans
Beet greens are simply the leafy part of the beetroot. There are a few varieties of beets including golden beets and chioggia beets which are striped. All these beet greens are edible. In fact, beets are in the same plant family as spinach and Swiss chard (and quinoa and amaranth). Because of their similarities, beet greens make a great substitution for spinach or chard in a recipe. And vice versa.
This recipe for beet greens with orzo and beans is a variation of “greens and beans” with starch. Turns out, I’m not the only one with this pantry meal idea. Mark Bittman has a neat table of bean, green and pasta combos in his How to Cook Everything (<-affiliate). Over the last year, some of my favorites have been this chickpea chard and potato stew and this farro with radicchio and chard.
Easy Weeknight Budget Friendly Dinners
Greens and beans have become a staple in my kitchen because they’re easy, budget friendly dinners that are super fast to prepare on busy weeknights. This garlic beet greens recipe uses a few kitchen staples including olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper and garlic. And the include a few other items easily procured from any grocery store.
With less than 10 ingredients, and no more than 30 minutes (of prep and cook time), easy, healthy vegetarian dinners are within reach. For this garlic beet greens recipe, I purchased the orzo in the bulk section for $4.99 per pound. The beans were $1.29 per 14-ounce can. Full disclosure: I bought store brand! It’s cheaper, but not as cheap as dried beans you can prepare yourself. And I got free beet greens from the farmers market. Otherwise, beets with greens currently retail for $2.29 per bunch.
In total, my dinner for two cost me:
- $1.09 - orzo
- $1.29 - cannellini beans
- $0.00 - rescued beet greens
I’ll let you do the math.
If you’ve found yourself purchasing beets to use the greens in this beet greens recipe, here are some other ideas for using the beetroot: beet salad with goat cheese, Asian roasted beets, mint yogurt beet dip.
Likewise, if you’re looking to make substitutions or swaps, check out the recipe notes below or comment with your questions. I’d love to hear about what you make!
Garlic Beet Greens Recipe with Orzo and Cannellini Beans
- 1/2 cup uncooked orzo
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bunch beet greens roughly chopped (about 10 ounces)
- 1 14.5-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a pot. Add salt to taste, about 2 teaspoons. Pour in orzo and cook 8 to 10 minutes. Orzo should have a firm but chewy texture. Drain and rinse orzo.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic over medium low heat in a pan. Stir occasionally to prevent garlic from burning.
When garlic is fragrant, add beet greens and salt to taste. Increase heat to medium high and add cannellini beans. Cook until beet greens are wilted. Remove from heat and stir in crushed red pepper.
Combine cooked beet greens and beans with orzo. Drizzle remaining tablespoon olive oil and serve.
Inspired by How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (<-affiliate)
Salting your pasta water is the best way to flavor to orzo pasta. In fact, it’s the only way to season the pasta itself. (The sauces you use will flavor the dish, but not the actual pasta.) However, be sure to cover your pot and add salt to your water after it’s boiled. Salted water takes longer to come to a boil. Covering the pot traps heat, which brings the water to a boil more quickly.
Use a gluten-free pasta like DeLallo’s gluten-free orzo or use your preferred gluten-free grain.
I like to finish this garlic beet greens recipe with a sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan cheese. This is the kind of easy dinner recipe that calls for leftover meat from roast chicken, a few pieces of pancetta or bacon, or cooked breakfast sausage just for seasoning.
Check the Fridge
The building blocks of this beet greens recipe are the starch, greens and beans. So use what you have! Swap chickpeas or navy beans for the cannellini beans. Use spinach or Swiss chard instead of beet greens. Penne, fettuccine, even ramen noodles are appropriate for this recipe.
Looking to stick to your budget even more? Cooking beans from scratch is a great way to save money. Especially if you buy from the bulk section, dried beans are even more affordable than canned beans. You can cook beans on the stove top or in the slow cooker. I like the slow cooker method. Just soak the beans overnight and then cook them on low in the slow cooker for 6 to 7 hours. Be sure to add some salt as well as aromatics like onion, garlic, and bay leaves.
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