Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Toscanelli Beans with Sage

I read somewhere that Toscanelli beans are the Rolls Royce of beans in Italy - white beans, small, tender, creamy, delicious. They're thin skinned, so they readily absorb the flavors they're cooked with. So, when I saw some for $3.00 per pound, I snatched them up pronto. Here, I've fixed them with savory vegetables, in a vegetable broth. For spice, I've used sage, which is the traditional herb to use with these popular Tuscan beans. If you can't fine dried toscanelli beans, feel free to use any white bean, canellini, Great Northerns, or small white beans. I used bacon in this recipe, though an Italian pancetta would be more in keeping with tradition. However, the bacon is entirely optional - omit it if you want a vegetarian version. Keep the bacon and serve this with pork and crispy sage for a meaty, sage-y, version.


1 cup dried toscanelli beans
4 cups water
3 slices bacon
1 tsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup peeled, chopped carrot
1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup chopped dried tomatoes (packed in oil)
1 quart low sodium vegetable stock
1 tsp. sea salt, to taste

Cover beans with water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Drain the beans. Prepare the remaining ingredients while the beans are soaking in the hot water. Cook the bacon, drain on paper towels, then crumble or chop into 1/2 inch dice. Drain the bacon fat. Add the olive oil to the pan, heat over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the sage and cook for another minute, until it begins to turn crispy. Add the tomatoes, stirring to combine. Set aside until the beans have finished soaking.

After draining the beans, return them to the heat. Add the vegetable stock, along with the cooked vegetables, and bring to a low simmer. Cover the beans and cook, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't stick. Cook the beans until they are tender, about 1 hour. If they begin to stick, add some water to the pan. Taste the beans, adding salt if needed. Serve, adding some fresh sage leaves as a garnish.

Serves 4

Stealthy Cooking Tip: I found toscanelli beans at my favorite family Italian grocery in St Helena, California. Look for them in the bulk bins at Italian specialty stores. 

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