Fagioli Borlotti alla Toscana

Tuscan Marbled Beans, freshly Harvested

Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Honey from a Weed

By Patience Gray

Published 1986

  • About


  • 1 kg ( lb) fagioli borlotti
  • ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • olive oil
  • 1 large sweet white onion
  • ½ kg (1 lb 2 oz) plum tomatoes
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • celery tops (or dandelions), chopped
  • a sprig of thyme
  • origano
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • a thread of wine vinegar


    Husk the beans and put them in an earthenware pot (or heavy pan) with plenty of cold water and the pinch of bicarbonate. Bring to the boil and, after 5 minutes, strain, rinse and throw away the cooking water. This preliminary blanching is a definite ritual with regard to any bean of the species Phaseolus vulgaris, fresh or dried, in Italy, Spain and Greece.

    Set a glazed earthenware beanpot, its bottom covered with oil, on a wire-mesh on a low heat. Slice the onion, simmer it in the oil, then add the plum tomatoes, peeled after immersion in boiling water, and crush them in the pan. Put in the parsley, roughly chopped, with the chopped celery tops (or dandelions), the thyme and the origano, and season. Throw in the beans and diced potatoes, simmer for 5 minutes, then cover with boiling water. Cook slowly for 1½ hours.

    Strain off the excess liquor and save it for tomorrow’s soup. Put the beans in a dish with a little of their sauce, sprinkle with the parsley, black pepper and garlic, and add a little olive oil and a thread of wine vinegar. Serve cold with marinated anchovies, black olives and a raw finocchio salad dressed with oil and vinegar.

    Beans are capable of absorbing a lot of oil, being essentially dry; one must not therefore be surprised that olive oil initiates the cooking and is employed again when serving them. These beans are often cooked with vineyard weeds (see Edible Weeds). The recipe can be used for fagioli di Spagna (butter beans), for fresh white haricot beans, and for black-eyed beans (called fagiolini di Sant Anna in Carrara), which last take less time to cook.