Classic Tuscan Bean Stew

Fagioli all’ Uccelletto

The Tuscans have been famous as bean eaters for centuries and many recipes for cooking these delicious pulses have originated from the region. The dishes do require fresh beans for the best results, but I think the dried variety works rather well too. This dish is excellent both as an antipasto and an accompaniment.

Ingredients

  • lb (1.5 kg) dried haricot, kidney, cannellini or butter beans, soaked overnight in cold water, or canned beans, drained
  • fl oz (100 ml) best-quality Tuscan olive oil
  • 4 fresh sage leaves or ¼ teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb (450 g) canned tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped

Method

If using dried beans, drain them and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Put them in a saucepan and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil, boil fast for 5 minutes, drain, rinse and return to the pan. Cover again with fresh cold water, return to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour or until tender - the cooking time will vary according to the type of bean.

Heat the oil in another pan and add the sage, garlic and a large pinch of pepper. Fry for about 5 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Drain the cooked beans and add them to the sage and garlic. If using canned beans, add them at this point also. Stir together and add the tomatoes and their juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cover. Simmer very slowly for about 20 minutes, making sure the end result is not too dry - add a little water during cooking if necessary.

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