Oh-so-creamy cannelini and fennel pasta sauce, 24p (VEGAN)

Softy softy creamy creamy garlicky sweet deliciousness... I'm a bit in love with this one...

Softy softy creamy creamy garlicky sweet deliciousness… I’m a bit in love with this one…

This recipe started life as an idea for a vegan white sauce for a future-lentil-lasagne (for new readers, I’m not a practising vegan, my wife-to-be has a pig restaurant, but a lot of my recipes happen to be vegan and I have a loyal core of vegan readers, so I wanted to make a conscious effort this year to cook at least as many vegan or easy-to-veganise recipes as I did meat ones, hence the recent flurry of pulses!). Anyway, I woke up this morning and started tinkering with a can of cannelinis, and ended up with something so soft and creamy and comforting that all it needs is a spoon over some warm pasta, and the future-lentil-lasagne will have to wait. And next time anyone asks where you get your protein from in a vegan diet, well, point them this way…

Serves 4 at 24p each*

1 large onion (200g approx), 13p
2-4 fat cloves of garlic, depending on how much of a fan you are, 7p
2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil, 4p
a pinch of salt, <1p
1x 400g can of cannelini beans (240g drained weight), 60p
¼ teaspoon (0.5g) of fennel seeds (not essential if they aren’t the sort of thing you have lying around but I’m a Big Fan of them as a storecupboard spice, a couple of little fennel seeds go a long long way), 1p
2 tbsp lemon juice, 6p
a few sprigs of parsley or herb of your choice, 3p

Peel and finely slice your onion and peel and mince (or finely chop) your garlic, and pop into a pan with the oil. Bring to a gentle heat, add a pinch of salt, the fennel seeds, and stir lovingly. There’s a lot of love going into this dish along the way, by the way, it’s got the subtle soothing nature of a risotto, so clear the decks and use it as a destressor while you stand and stir.

Drain and rinse the cannelini beans and toss into the pan, squeeze the lemon juice over the top, and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes to soften the onions.

Add 200ml cold water and turn the heat up to bring to a boil. Reduce back down to a simmer, stir, and leave to cook for another 10 minutes. The cannelinis should start to break down and self-puree, thickening the sauce. Stir well and gradually add another 200ml water (you might not need all of it) until most of the cannelinis have broken down and you’re left with a soft, creamy, sweet, garlicky, comforting gorgeous sauce. Allow to cool, spoon into jars, label and pop in the fridge until dinner time. I’m putting one in the fridge and one in the freezer for a freebie dinner later in the week…

*Prices are worked out at Sainsburys because that’s where I currently shop, but things like carrots and onions are widely sold in many other places for similar prices. If you happen to find them ludicrously cheaper, please comment below as I’m sure my readers would love to know where the bargains are. Prices are also subject to change but are correct at the time of blogging. I worked them out like this: Basics onions 95p/1.5kg. Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics table salt 25p/750g. 400g tin of cannelini beans 60p. Fennel seeds £1/39g. Lemon juice 50p/250ml. Parsley 80p/28g.

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe

…and if you like this, you might like one of my books, available to order over at Hive, who will ship it to your local independent book store, or your house! Check it out here: http://www.hive.co.uk/search/Jack+monroe/mediatype/all/


  1. Every now and then Jack you throw in a pearl, my wife is a veggie and loved this. Just for a short time in my drab and wretched life I was a hero! 🙂

  2. Do you think this would work in the slow cooker? I have toddler twins and cooking is a lot more convenient if I can just dunk the food in the slow cooker, give it the occasional stir, and tah dah, many hours later dinner is ready.

  3. Yes, an excellent and cheap vegan recipe, but, make it a bit more expensive and you can add fresh fennel, which would be delicious in it. If you are feeling the need for meat, little chunks of salted pork belly and you are in pig heaven (but not so much for the pigs…)

  4. Incredible edible love your vegan recipes. Keep. Them coming
    My girl was cooking her 5 boys the roasted carrot soup thing.
    As an activist I have to watch money and you do that for me .

  5. Just love your recipes Jack. I’m veggie and have been for over forty years now, so I find your vegan and veggie recipes a breath of fresh air after following many cookery books that I’ve had on the shelf for ages. Rose Elliot was one of my favourites. So just invested in your book with 100 new recipes. That will keep me going to ages.
    Sylvia Hough

  6. Think it would work with butter beans? Seem to have a few cans of those knocking around in a cupboard.

    • Butter beans should work; they break down easily when overcooked!
      It’s great to have more uses for fennel seeds, which I’ve hitherto only used in a fish chowder, using salmon carcases from the market.
      As alternatives to fennel, try caraway or coriander seeds; they’re all from the same family.

  7. This is great thank you! Recently taken our son off of dairy due to his behaviour (he is now much less agressive and angry) so creamy sauces have been made using substitutes but this is much, much cheaper x

  8. I’m experimenting with a batch in my slow cooker – thanks Jack. Looking forward to tasting it later. BTW Tesco sell East End brand cannellini beans for 50p per can.and ASDA’s own brand are 48p.

  9. Love fennel seeds- I picked a head of wild ones on the beach in Somerset, but I’m nearly out. Was hoping to grow some herb fennel in the garden, but it upsets other plants apparently, and we’re extremely tight on space! Supermarket it is then…

  10. Have made this a couple of times now, so delicious and I blend it down to use as a pouring sauce. Today it has been lovingly spooned over cauliflower to make a garlicky vegan cauliflower cheese… can’t wait to eat it!

  11. How bizarre, I just made this exactly as the recipe suggests and mine has turned out the colour of melted milk chocolate!

  12. Might try topping this with just a little chopped agastache (aka anise hyssop)- it’s growing in my window box, and has a lovely sweet liquorice flavour that might complement the fennel seeds quite well.

  13. This is great! I am lactose intolerant but can tolerate a small amount of ‘hard cheese’ e.g. cheddar or red Leicester, especially if melted. If I were to use this as a white sauce between lasagne layers then I could just sprinkle a little cheese on top but I can enjoy lasagne again! Thank you very much!

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