The beginning of a new year always brings with it the longing for comfort food. But after stuffing myself a bit over the holidays, I feel the need to be cooking healthy, lighter food. So, I turn to a perfect Italian recipe, which originally came from my chef friend and fellow cooking teacher, Judy Witts Francini. I’ve modified it a bit.
Be sure to make a full recipe, as it can make some fantastic plan-over dinners! The beans may be used as a great soup, a first course, or drained, as a side dish for a meat entrée. I like to add browned pork chops, chicken thighs or … DUCK BREASTS! and braise them in the bean liquid. OH, I cannot wait for dinner tonight! And, if you have a pressure cooker, it’s a great dish in about 45 minutes. Plus, you don’t have to soak the beans! The method for this is below.
I’m going to run down to the kitchen and make this as soon as this post is finished, as I have a low white bean light!
tuscan white beans
- 12 ounces dried small white beans (Great Northern Cannellini, or navy beans)
- 2 quarts water or stock (less for pressure cook method)
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 branch fresh or dried sage, cut into chiffonade
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- sofrito (optional): 2 tablespoons minced onion, 1 tablespoons minced carrot, 1 tablespoon minced celery
Pick through beans to be sure there are no rocks. Place the beans in a pot or bowl and cover with water to a one inch above the level of the beans. Soak overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Drain the soaked beans. In casserole, place beans, cover with water or stock, to a one inch level above the beans. Add the garlic, sage, olive oil, salt, black pepper and sofrito if using. Cover the pan. Bake 2-3 hours, checking to be sure that beans do not dry out. Beans will be soft to bite when done.
Season beans with salt and plenty of black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
* for white beans with pork:
- olive oil
- 4 thick cut pork chops, patted dry (optional)** see prep directions below
- fried sage leaves & oil for garnish
Sauté both sides of four thick-cut pork chops in vegetable or olive oil over high heat to a golden brown. Add to beans after the first hour of cooking. Lower the heat to 300°F. Continue to cook three hours more (yes, this is a longer cooking time, needed to finish the pork).
** for Zuppa Lombarda: Place a slice of olive oil and garlic toast in the bottom of a soup bowl. Top with beans and their broth. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with pepper.
** for bean salad: Toss drained beans with flaked tuna, minced onion and parsley. Season to taste with olive oil and salt. Serve as a first course or a side.
pressure cook method for just the beans:
Place beans, garlic, sage, black pepper, optional sofrito, and enough chicken stock or water to just cover the beans. Drizzle olive oil over all. Pressure cook 31-35 minutes. Release steam with the natural method.
pressure cook method for white beans with pork:
Place beans, garlic, sage, black pepper, optional sofrito, and enough chicken stock or water to just cover the beans. Drizzle olive oil over all. Pressure cook 15 minutes. Quick release pressure.
Meanwhile, in skillet on stovetop, brown pork in olive oil.
When pressure has released, add pork and salt. Pressure cook 16-20 minutes more. Release steam with the natural method.