Fagioli all'Uccelletto - Tuscan Bean & Tomato Stew
This simple dish makes the perfect accompaniment to mild Italian pork sausage but is just as enjoyable served as a main with fresh country bread. Packed with the flavors of Tuscany, even though it's name implies these beans are "bird style", fagioli all'uccelletto is much more than food for the birds. While the time it takes to soak and cook the beans from scratch is worth the wait, if you're short on time you could use pre-cooked beans and you will still have a dish that's bright and satisfying.
- 500 grams (1 lb) dry cannellini beans
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lb ripe tomatoes (peeled)
- 1 sprig of sage (6-8 large leaves)
- 2 cloves of garlic (bruised or whole)
- salt & pepper
- Soak the beans for 12 hours or overnight in plain water.
- Rinse the beans in cold water and drain.
- Cover the beans in about 4 inches of unsalted water and simmer for 40 minutes (if the water level gets too low, make sure to add more, the beans should stay covered the entire time).
- Lightly salt the water and continue simmering the beans for another 15 - 30 minutes until just tender and not loosing their skin.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium and (once hot) lightly sauté the garlic and sage until the garlic is gently browned and the sage is fragrant.
- Crush the tomatoes with a fork and add them to the oil, stir and let simmer for a few minutes until they have broken down some and the mixture has thickened to your liking.
- Add the beans (strained) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Let simmer for 15 minutes or until the beans are soft, adding leftover cooking water from the beans as necessary. Stir occasionally so the sauce does not become too dry or thick.
- Serve hot with some fresh bread and extra virgin olive oil.
If tomatoes aren't in season you are better off using 7 or 8 ounces of quality canned tomatoes. Also, if you aren't used to cooking beans from scratch, be aware that cooking times can vary greatly depending on the age of the beans, among other factors. For the best results, make sure to check for doneness throughout the process and adjust your cooking time accordingly.