Tuscan Cooking Always Means Fresh Food
White beans are a delicious and versatile bean, that work well in many dishes. They’re also good eaten alone with just butter or olive oil, salt and pepper.
As a rule, Tuscan cooking is neither fussy nor complicated. It does not rely on expensive ingredients, heavy sauces, or elaborate presentations to shine. Instead, these recipes often feature high-quality local ingredients combined in delicious, yet elegantly simple, ways.
This recipe is no exception.
These Simple Key Ingredients Make All the Difference
Here, humble cannellini white beans are infused with the flavors of garlic, fresh herbs, and spices, then topped off by a drizzle of the high-quality extra virgin olive oil for which Tuscany is known.
This classic side dish pairs well with any number of entrees, including many types of chicken, beef, pork, and seafood. When making this dish, it’s always a good idea to prepare more beans than you think you’ll need.
Leftovers (we call them “planned-overs”) can be added to salads, stews, and soups, such as this delicious Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup.
Use Fresh Herbs When You Can
Fresh herbs are a trademark of Tuscan cooking, and also of gardeners.
We have a vegetable garden that includes herbs such as lavender, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, cilantro, mints and sage. We’re also growing some edible flowers such as nasturtiums. Both the leaves and blossoms of nasturtium plant contribute a peppery presence to recipes.
However, even if you don’t have a vegetable garden, you can still grow herbs in pots indoors and on patios, balconies and decks.
Sage is an interesting herb. It has medicinal benefits, including improves cognitive function. Now that we know it’s a good brain herb, we’ll be using it more. Otherwise, it’s not as frequently used in recipes here in the US as other herbs. Sage makes more of an appearance around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in dressing and stuffing.
However, sage is a wonderful herb to use year round, so that’s one of the things we like about this recipe. We also enjoy cannellini beans, however, they’re not always easy to find in some areas such as our local stores.
Substitutes for Cannellini White Beans
So if you don’t have those on hand, you can substitute with your favorite white beans. Other beans somewhat similar in taste and texture to cannellinis include such as white kidney beans, great northern beans, navy beans and cranberry beans, which have a hint of a chestnut flavor.((https://townandcountrymarkets.com/brochures/cooking-guide-for-dried-beans/))
- 3 c. dried white beans (preferably cannellini), rinsed and picked over
- Cold water, to cover
- 2 T. olive oil
- 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 10-12 large fresh sage leaves
- 2 large sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 t. sea salt
- 15-20 whole black peppercorns
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 T. high-quality extra virgin olive oil
1. Add rinsed beans to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Cover and set aside for at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. Drain and rinse beans and transfer to a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Cover with 2-3 inches of cold water and add 2 tablespoons regular olive oil, garlic, bay leaves, fresh herbs, salt, and black peppercorns. Bring to a low boil for one minute over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Remove and discard any foam that collects on the surface while boiling.
3. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1½ hours or until beans are tender. Remove from heat and let beans cool in the pot with the cooking liquid for 15-20 minutes.
Note: Actual cooking time will depend on the size and age of the beans. Smaller, fresher beans will take less time than larger, older ones. Check for doneness after 45 minutes and adjust cooking time accordingly. Beans should be tender, but not mushy.
4. Carefully drain beans, reserving some of the liquid to use in soups or stews, if desired. Remove and discard the solids from the cooking process before transferring the beans to a serving container. Season with salt and black pepper, if desired, and drizzle with high-quality olive oil to serve.
Time-Saving Tip: if you don’t have time to soak beans overnight, add them to a large pot and cover with 3” of cold water. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat for one minute, then remove from heat. Cover and set aside for at least one hour before draining.