One of the most nutritious and versatile foods on Earth is the humble bean. Humble not in taste but in availability, they are grown everywhere. They are the base of many diets around the world. They are eaten by the very rich and the very poor. Once dried they will have a very long shelf life. They are, in short, an amazing food not to mention their very healthy makeup. Simply put beans are an excellent food source, loaded with everything a human body needs. They are truly delicious and can be made in many ways. Let’s travel for a moment to Tuscany, that fabled and romantic central Italian region where the bean ( FAGIOLI in Italian) is King. A typical Tuscan main dish or side will be Fagioli of some sort.
National Bean Day is on July 3 every year so this is my contribution to that celebration. Let’s cook!
For 4 people and takes under 1/2 hour (if using canned beans..there are great brands out there, many domestic and many imported from Italy, simply drain the can and rinse the excess packing salt off them)
2 cans of Cannellini Beans (White Kidney Beans), drained and rinsed
1 28 oz can of San Marzano Tomatoes run through a food mill or food processor to make smooth
1 1/2 tbs. olive oil
2 sliced cloves of garlic
6 fresh whole sage leaves
kosher salt, ground black pepper
In a dutch oven, heat the oil, add the garlic, season with a salt…then add 3 sage leaves..and RIGHT as that garlic starts to turn golden add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring this to a boil then add the beans. Bring to a boil again and then place on medium heat/simmer and cook this, stirring periodically. This will allow everything to infuse and the tomato to thicken. Let it cook for 20 minutes like this. If you need it to be “thicker”, continue for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning at this point, add the salt and pepper and the remaining 3 leaves. My tip for better flavor is to let it completely cool and reheat later on or better yet overnight.
I like mine with Pecorino or Parmigiano grated over it with a drizzle of really fruity olive oil.
So what’s up with the long Italian name of this dish? As with many Italian recipes there are stories and traditions and legends with each one, especially the colorfully named ones. Apparently small birds (Uccelletti) are stewed in tomato in Tuscany and the people tagged the beans in tomato with the name since it resembles the bird dish. No little birds were harmed in the making of this pot of beans, no worries.
You can also add seared Italian Sausages into this pot, but your cooking time would be about 10 minutes longer or until the sausages are cooked.