This delicious simple bean salad, Fasolia Piaz, was found in our Milk Street magazine and had the Mediterranean profile we were looking for. In Greece they typically use large, flat butter beans, but here, easier-to-find cannellinis are incorporated.
To compensate for canned beans’ blandness, they are heated in the microwave, then tossed while still hot with oil, vinegar and aromatics. As the beans cool, they absorb the seasonings, so they’re flavorful throughout.
A bonus, the beans can be heated, dressed and refrigerated up to a day in advance; but bring the beans to room temperature before tossing with the avocado, herbs and lemon. However, even cold the salad is delicious. A great dish to serve at a picnic or potluck as a side for meat lovers, or as a main for plant-based followers.
Milk Street stresses not to skip the step of heating the beans in the microwave, and don’t allow the beans to cool before adding the oil, vinegar and aromatics. Dressing them while hot ensures they are fully infused with flavor. To keep the flavors and colors fresh and bright, don’t add the avocado and herbs until you’re ready to serve.
Growing up in the Midwest, Pasta e Fagioli wasn’t anywhere on my culinary radar. When I moved East decades ago, I quickly learned it was quite common in this region of the country. Minestrone, is a similar type of soup but the main difference between it and pasta e fagioli is the variety of vegetables in minestrone. Fagioli (pronounced fazool) is mainly pasta and beans in a broth, although this version includes kale and herbs among other plant additives.
A traditional Italian soup, it started as a peasant dish, being composed of inexpensive ingredients.
The key to a soup with fully developed savory flavor starts with the soffritto—a mix of aromatic vegetables that are slowly cooked in the first stage of cooking. Take your time sweating down the vegetables until they are completely softened before letting them take on any color. You’ll be surprised by how much volume they lose and how much liquid they release and by how much unquantifiable richness they lend to the final dish, which is nothing more than a combination of humble ingredients.
To up the flavor quota, Russ used two smoked ham hocks and 1 quart of homemade ham stock and included fresh rosemary and thyme, all of which are noted in the list of ingredients below. This recipe is doubled from the original Bon Appétit version, so you can easily cut it in half if desired. Be prepared that this soup is time consuming, so you’ll want to schedule a long lazy afternoon to make it.
1 lb. dried medium white beans (such as cannellini), soaked overnight if possible*
8 carrots, scrubbed, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, coarsely chopped
12 garlic cloves
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzlingFreshly ground black pepper
2 smoked ham hocks
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 bunches Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
4 Parmesan rinds (optional)
4 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
3-3 1/2 qts. water and/or ham broth
1 lb. small pasta (such as ditalini)
Finely grated Parmesan, crushed red pepper flakes, and crusty bread (for serving)
*If you haven’t soaked the beans, do a power soak: Place beans in a large pot, cover with water by 1″, and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove pot from heat, stir in a palmful of salt, cover pot, and let beans sit 1 hour.
Pulse carrots, leek, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat ⅓ cup oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add chopped vegetables, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables start to sweat out some of their liquid, about 4 minutes. The goal at this stage is to slow cook the soffritto until the vegetables are very soft but have not taken on any color.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so and reducing heat if mixture starts to brown, until vegetables are softened and juicy, about 15 minutes.
Add ham hock and cook, uncovered, stirring and scraping bottom of pot every 5 minutes, until soffritto is starting to brown in places and has lost at least half of its volume, about 10 minutes more.
Add beans and their soaking liquid, tomatoes, and kale; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then add Parmesan rinds (if using) and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook soup with lid askew, adding water (or stock, if you have it) as needed to keep beans submerged by 1″, until beans are very tender, 1–3 hours, depending on size and age of beans.
Fish out and discard Parmesan rinds. Remove ham hock and use a fork to pull meat off the bone. Return meat to soup; discard bone and any large pieces of fat.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling well-salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta and add to soup, then taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. (Do not try to skip a step by cooking the pasta in the soup. The noodles will absorb all the available liquid and the liquid will be thick and gummy.)
Divide soup among bowls. Top with Parmesan, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve with bread for dunking if desired.
Having made the traditional recipe—which takes hours—we were thrilled to find this quick-and-easy version of the Spanish tapa known as Fabada Asturiana, a hearty stew of dried beans, sausage and other smoky, porky ingredients.
A number of years ago on our first trip to Spain, we were lucky enough to enjoy an authentic fabada, shown above, in the little Austurian town of Cabrales in Northern Spain. The Hubs liked it so much, he bought the ingredients and smuggled them home. Luckily (or not), because I had suffered a broken foot a few days earlier, we were whisked through airport customs back home, preventing our illegal meats and beans from being confiscated. (I don’t advise this tactic as a long term plan 🤣 )
I digress, back to the recipe at hand… Based on the changes from Milk Street, we pared back on the meats, using only chorizo and ham, both of which lend deep flavor to the broth. The dish gets its name from the large beans that are traditionally used in its preparation, but canned white beans work quite well. Preferred are the relatively large size and creamy texture of cannellinis, but great northern and navy beans are fine, too.
A pinch of saffron adds a very Spanish flavor and fragrance, while giving the stew an alluring golden hue. The color and flavor were also amped up from our homemade ham stock, which replaced the chicken broth.
The Hubs was sorely tempted to add a pinch of pimentón, but restrained himself from adding it to the stew. However, he did decide to sneak it onto the toasted crusty bread. BTW, it will serve six as a first course, or four as the main entrée.
TIP: Don’t overcook the chorizo and ham after adding it to the sautéed onion mixture. If the pieces begin to sear or brown, they’ll be chewy and rubbery in the finished dish. Cook only until the chorizo begins to release some of its fat.
8 oz. Spanish chorizo, casings removed, halved and thinly sliced
8 oz. ham steak, cut into ½-inch cubes
1½ qts. chicken broth, or ham stock, preferably homemade
3 15½-oz. cans white beans, rinsed and drained
3 bay leaves
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Warmed crusty bread, to serve
In a large pot over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, saffron and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is slightly softened, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the chorizo and ham, then cook, stirring, just until the chorizo begins to release its fat, about 1 minute. Stir in the broth, beans and bay. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, then reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a simmer, for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay, then stir in the scallions. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with bread.
Such a humble dish, but once you taste it, it rises to superstar status! Satisfying and economical, it uses a handful of ordinary ingredients. Once this Mediterranean-inspired dish is cooked up, you can’t get enough of it—and with every bite, it seems to get better.
We have been avid fans of chef/author Molly Stevens for decades, and this recipe came from our most recent cookbook addition “All About Dinner” which was released in 2019. It was gifted this past Christmas to The Hubs from one of the adult children, along with three other cookbooks—yes, we are a bit obsessed.
Our original plan was to soak dried white beans overnight. But the morning of, we realized we forgot to do that and therefore just used canned cannellinis which have a silky texture and nutty flavor. Opting for canned saves a step and some time, but if you prefer to soak beans by all means go ahead.
Our topping was not browning in the oven, so we put the gratin under the broiler. If you do the same, keep a close eyeball on it, because it browns very quickly under the intense heat. The next time we make this (which I hope is soon), we plan to drizzle olive oil with the bread crumbs and grated cheese before topping the gratin with it. This should help the browning process.
Do Ahead: The gratin can be prepared through Step 4 up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or so before serving.
8 oz. fresh sweet Italian sausage, casings removed if using links
1 medium yellow onion (about 7 oz.), coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch of mellow red pepper flakes, such as Aleppo, or crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 15-oz. cans white beans, rinsed and drained
One 14½-oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs or panko crumbs
2 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
Hot sauce such as Cholula or Tabasco for serving, optional
Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the upper third. Lightly oil a medium gratin dish, shallow baking dish, or ovenproof skillet.
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and use a spoon or metal spatula to flatten it into large chunks. (You get better browning on large flat chunks than crumbles.) Then cook, flipping it occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Break the sausage into bite-size pieces and transfer it to a large bowl and cover to keep warm, leaving the fat and drippings behind in the pan.
Return the skillet to medium heat, add the onion, season with a pinch of salt, and cook until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and a few good grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring, until just fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the aromatics to the bowl with the sausage.
Add the beans, tomatoes, with their juice, and parsley to the bowl with the other ingredients. Stir gently to combine without smashing the beans, then add a generous pour of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), and season boldly with salt and pepper. Taste, being sure to taste both the aromatics and a bean, and correct the seasoning as needed. Pour the mixture into the prepared gratin dish and use the back of a spoon to spread into an even layer.
Sprinkle the top of the beans with the bread crumbs and cheese. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake, uncovered, until heated through and beginning to brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. If the top is not as brown and crisp looking as you like, slide the gratin under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.
Otherwise known in English as White Beans with Sage, Garlic and Fennel. Super-fab! This one-pot vegetarian meal is so satisfying and tasty, that if you are a meat-eater—and we are—you won’t miss the meat. The simple combination of white beans, sage and garlic exemplifies the clarity of flavor the Tuscany region’s cooks can pull from just a few ingredients.
It is advised not to use cannellini beans, but rather Navy or Great Northern. We used the latter which are smaller than cannellini beans but larger than navy beans. Known for their delicate, nutty flavor, they’re usually added to casseroles and soups, such as this recipe. In summary, white beans provide a good source of protein, an excellent source of fiber, and several essential nutrients.
This recipe gave us a perfect opportunity to harvest the remainder of our fresh sage from the garden before the cold weather set in. Used in two ways—finely chopped and fried whole—this herb has a pronounced herbal flavor that is earthy, has a slightly peppery taste, and emits hints of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon. What’s more, sage is faintly piney, though not like juniper. It’s much softer and mixed with subtle citrus notes; perhaps a little on the bitter side, though not harshly so.
We loved it topped with an ample garnish of grated parmesan, but if omitted, it could work for the vegans in the family.
Don’t drain both cans of beans. The liquid from one of the cans creates a sauce-like consistency that keeps the beans succulent.
3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage, plus 20 whole leaves
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 15½-oz. cans white beans, 1 can rinsed and drained
Shaved or grated parmesan cheese, to serve
In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the fennel, onion, garlic, chopped sage, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and the beans. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, line a plate with paper towels. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the sage leaves and cook, flipping the leaves once, until the edges begin to curl, about 1 minute. Transfer to the prepared plate; reserve the oil.
Transfer the beans to a serving bowl, then drizzle with the sage oil. Coarsely crumble the sage leaves over the beans. Top with Parmesan.
It was a very trying Spring with cool, rainy weather amplified by the restraints from the pandemic, followed by racial tensions and curfews. But the weather in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast finally turned a corner with longer stretches of warmer days when I penned this blog. Ideal for this classic Italian salad which marries cooked white beans and oil-packed tuna for a protein-packed, pantry-friendly, light meal.
With summer now hitting the high notes—and by that I mean real muggy with soaring temps—it’s time to move away from heartier stews, and dive into bean dishes like this one, which require little to no additional cooking, and can be served at room temperature.
Because this dish is comprised of just a few ingredients, it’s at its best when made with top quality products. Cooked dried beans (and their cooking liquid) have much better flavor and texture than canned beans, so it’s highly recommended to use them in this recipe, if possible. BUT, we didn’t want to “cook” so we used Great Northern canned.
According to SeriousEats.com where we got this recipe, if using canned beans, substitute bean cooking liquid with 2 teaspoons water and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. The flavor of the dish obviously won’t be exactly the same, but mustard provides similar emulsifying properties as the bean cooking liquid for the dressing. I just learned something new with that!
Beans are one thing, but do not skimp on the tuna. The quality of the tuna you use will make a difference here. Oil-packed ventresca tuna is recommended, which comes from the richer, fatty belly; it’s moister and more flavorful than other canned or jarred tuna. Two great options of ventresca are both Ortiz and Tonnino—we used the latter.
About that tuna, 5.6 ounces for 4 people? Seemed a bit scant to me. Our jar was slightly larger at 6.7 ounces. (I noted the larger amount in the list below.) Plus, I don’t know why they didn’t save the oil after draining the tuna. We did, and it was exactly a 1/4-cup, the amount of EVOO needed for the dressing. The jarred oil is already brimming with flavor from the tuna, so why not use it?
Using a small mandoline to slice the red onion very thin makes quick work of the task. The original recipe doesn’t even list greens in the ingredients (although it is fleetingly mentioned in their narrative), but to me, a dinner salad needs a bed of them, otherwise it’s a “side dish” in my opinion. We chose a mix of baby spinach and arugula.
Hearty, but light, this salad requires less than 10 minutes of hands-on work, making it the perfect no-cook, quarantine pantry, warm-weather meal. And because it can be served at room temperature, it would make a fine contribution to a potluck or picnic affair. Enjoy!
1 Tbsp. Champagne, white wine, or red wine vinegar plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (1 pound 6 ounces) cooked dry white beans, drained; or two (15-ounce) cans low-sodium white beans, drained and rinsed
6.7 ounces olive oil-packed tuna, preferably ventresca tuna belly, drained into a measuring cup, and gently flaked into bite-size pieces (save the oil for the dressing)
1 med. garlic clove, minced or finely grated
1 Tbsp. bean cooking liquid, from a pot of beans cooked from dry (see note if using canned beans)
Extra-virgin olive oil, enough needed, if any, to add to the tuna oil to make 1/4 cup
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
5 oz. baby salad greens
In a small bowl, combine red onion and enough ice water to cover. Using clean hands, gently scrunch and squeeze the onion slices, taking care not to crush or break them. Let onion slices sit in ice water for 15 minutes, then drain and discard ice water, and return red onion to now-empty bowl.
Add vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss and gently massage onions to evenly coat with vinegar and salt. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow onion slices to marinate.
Meanwhile, combine beans and tuna in a large bowl. Once onions have marinated for 5 minutes, squeeze onion slices to release moisture into the bowl that they marinated in, then transfer onion slices to large bowl with beans and tuna; set large bowl aside.
There should be at least 1 tablespoon of vinegar-onion juice liquid left in the small bowl. Add garlic, bean cooking liquid (or, if using canned beans, 2 teaspoons water plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard), and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the tuna olive oil. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt.
Transfer dressing to large bowl with bean-tuna mixture, using a rubber spatula to scrape all of the dressing into the large bowl. Using a large spoon, gently toss salad to evenly coat with dressing, taking care not to crush tuna or beans in the process.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad between individual serving plates or one large serving platter.
If desired, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a splash of vinegar, and serve.