Polenta e Fagioli

Polenta and Beans


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

Polenta and beans, a peasant-food staple, is eaten in all three regions, although this is an Umbrian recipe. This dish is made with standard polenta - cornmeal boiled in salted water until thick and porridge-like in consistency - to which some beans, enriched with tomato sauce, are added. The incorporation of the stewed beans and their sauce into the polenta makes for a really tasty dish. It is traditionally served with a good sprinkling of freshly grated pecorino cheese.


  • 400 g/14 oz/2 ⅔ cups dried borlotti or cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 50 g/2 oz/ cup lard, white cooking fat or fatty pancetta, cubed
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 450 g/1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 300 g/11 oz/2 ⅓ cups coarse or medium-grade polenta flour
  • sea salt and ground black pepper
  • freshly grated pecorino cheese and extra virgin olive oil, to serve


  1. Rinse the soaked borlotti or cannellini beans. Put them in a large pan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil and boil hard for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse again.
  2. Return the beans to the pan, cover with fresh water, bring to the boil, and boil gently for 45 minutes, or until the beans are softened. Drain away most of the cooking water, reserving just a spoonful or two.

  3. In a separate pan, fry the lard, cooking fat or pancetta together with the carrot, celery and onion for 10 minutes, until softened.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir together. Simmer until the mixture is thickened and glossy, then season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.

  5. Add the boiled beans and the remaining water, stir to mix, and simmer over a very low heat while you cook the polenta, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Bring 2 litres/3 pints/9 cups water to the boil in a large pan. Add a large pinch of salt, then trickle the polenta flour into the boiling water in a steady stream, whisking constantly.

  7. Turn the heat to medium-low. Using a strong wooden spoon, stir the polenta constantly for about 40 minutes.
  8. Add the beans and their sauce, reserving a little to serve separately, if you wish, and continue to stir and cook for a further 10 minutes.

  9. Serve sprinkled with pecorino cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.