The weather this August has been uncharacteristically cool and that has me thinking of rustic autumnal food, particularly northern Italian food like slow-cooked Tuscan white beans.
I am a big fan of beans. They are inexpensive and easy to prepare and are incredibly versatile. This is one of my favorite preparations of white beans. They are meaty and creamy and fragrant with rosemary, lemon, garlic and wine.
These beans can be used in a variety of ways. I love to sprinkle them over salads or mix them into just about any pasta dish. They are also exceptionally good when coarsely mashed and served on small slices of grilled bread as bruschetta.
This recipe is an all day affair, but the actual hands on time is minimal, mostly you will just sit around and wait for the beans to slowly cook in the oven while they fill the air with their incredible aroma. Once prepared, they can be refrigerated and used in many different dishes. I provide recipes for a Tuscan white bean bruschetta and also a rustic Tuscan pasta dish with sausage, mushrooms and peppers. YUM!
Penne pasta with sausage, peppers, mushrooms , spinach and Tuscan white beans
Tuscan white bean bruschetta with roasted red pepper
Tuscan White Beans with Bacon, Rosemary and Lemon
makes about 6 cups
1 lb dried canneloni beans
6 cups boiling water
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 head garlic peeled (about 12 cloves)
zest of one lemon
2 cups dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
juice of 1/2 lemon
Place dried beans in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for one hour.
While beans are soaking, preheat oven to 250 F. In a large heavy oven proof pan cook bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is slightly crisp (about 20 minutes).
Add onion and whole garlic cloves and lemon zest to bacon and saute over medium heat, stirring frequently until onions are soft. Add white wine, chicken stock and salt and pepper to pan and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Drain beans and add to pan. Bring just to a boil and add rosemary sprigs. Cover pan and transfer to oven. Bake, undisturbed for 4-5 hours until beans are very tender and very little liquid remains (do not cook until dry).
After 4 and half hours in a slow oven
Remove rosemary carefully from pan and discard. Add juice of 1/2 lemon and gently mix in to beans. Beans can be refrigerated for one week.
Tuscan White Bean Bruschetta
1 large red bell pepper
11/2 cups tuscan white beans
1 loaf garlic bread or baguette, sliced and grilled
Place pepper on grill over high flames and roast, turning occasionally until all sides are charred black. Place roasted pepper in a paper bag and crimp top. Allow pepper to steam until cool. Remove charred skin and seeds. Slice pepper thinly.
Mash beans coarsely with a fork. Serve atop slices of garlic bread or grilled baguette and garnish with roasted red pepper.
Penne with Sausage, Spinach, Mushrooms, Peppers and Tuscan White Beans
1lb penne pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1 small onion, diced
12 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 small red bell peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small tomatoes, diced
9 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp olive oil (I particularly like porcini-infused olive oil)
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook penne according to package directions.
While water is heating, combine 2 Tbsp olive oil, red pepper flakes and sausage in a large skillet, brown sausage over medium-high heat. Add onions, mushrooms and peppers to sausage and cook until onions and mushrooms are tender. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently until all the liquid has evaporated. Add fresh spinach and then add one cup reserved pasta cooking water over the spinach and toss until spinach is wilted. Add cooked penne pasta and toss. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with porcini olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Let rest for 15-20 minutes, tossing occasionally, for pasta to absorb sauce and thicken.
To serve, place a mound of pasta in a shallow bowl and top with 1/2 cup Tuscan white beans. Garnish with grated parmesan cheese.