I lived in Britain for a time, during which Baked Beans were one of my staple foods. They are pretty cheap and the British kind is vegetarian, but after watching That Sugar Film I stopped buying them because I realized just how much added sugar they contain-in fact 1 can contains 20 grams of sugar, compared to 35 grams in a regular can of coca cola. I also realized that they are not as cheap as a can of regular kidney beans or chickpeas. So overall they turned out just to be a bad buy.
Now I am living in Italy and once I was shopping at Lidl where I was trying to buy some beans. I had picked out the ones which I wanted and then just grabbed some more cans and put them in my cart without really looking at them, only to realize later that half of the cans were actually baked beans-advertised as beans in tomato sauce, but containing sugar just as they do in the UK.
I didn’t really want to eat them after my revelation about the hidden sugar in baked beans, but I was sorry to see the food go to waste, so what could I do about it? One option would be to rinse the sauce off of the beans and just use them as white beans, but the other day I decided to try something different.
One of my rules in the kitchen is to try to use up everything, even if it is something I don’t like, which can be done by transforming it into something else. Many products can be hidden in soups or baked into bread. While I can’t get the sugar out of the beans this way, at least I can improve the taste, so I decided to use them to make pasta sauce. All I did was add the baked beans to a pan but then I gave them a boost by adding some real tomato sauce as well as some fresh diced tomato. If I had had an onion I would have added that as well, but I didn’t so I added some basil leaves instead to try to cancel out some of the sweetness.
Could I have transformed this ingredient even more? Sure, but I think I did alright given that I just wanted to throw a quick meal together and had limited ingredients. Was it good? Well I didn’t get the sugar out, but the enhanced tomato taste plus the addition of the basil definitely masked it, and if I hadn’t known that I had started with baked beans I would never have guessed that they were the base of this meal.