Italians have always been bean eaters. The bean is cheap protein after all.
Greeks ate lentils. Romans consumed garbanzo beans and black-eyed peas daily. Commons beans arrived in Italy from America with Colombo and returned to America with Italian emigrants and their “pasta fazool”.
As for myself, I have had some bad bean experiences. The nuns at kindergarten fed us industrial amounts of a mushy porridge of rice and beans. Fatty pork rinds and overcooked macaroni have been looming in my father’s dinners. He’s the most Etruscan of the family.
As a consequence, I have become a bean snob, I only eat perfect beans. For that, I need good quality beans either fresh or dry, not canned. I need fresh herbs and good extra virgin olive oil. Last but not least, I do not mistreat my pasta. I use fresh egg pasta not ditalini or broken spaghetti. I cook it separately so it’s al dente. This way I get a heart warming, flavorful, wholesome dish. Just like it should be.
- 3 lt (3 quarts) cold water
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 medium whole onion, peeled
- 1 medium carrot, scrubbed
- 1 celery stalk, leaves removed
- 1 sprig of rosemary and a few sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 60 gr (2 ounces) fresh tagliolini (narrow fettuccine) per person
- 250 gr (8 ounces) borlotti or cannellini beans
Soak beans overinight in cold water, rinse and transfer in in a tall saucepan. Add onion, carrot, tomato, celery, herbs and water. Cover and simmer slowly until beans are tender. Season with salt and black pepper.
Pure half of the beans and return to pan. Cover to keep warm. Cook pasta in plenty boiling hot water until al dente. Fresh tagliolini will take no more than one minute. Just before serving, ladle beans into bowls, add pasta and drizzle with good EVO oil.
Variation:chop 1 clove garlic and 30 gr. (one ounce) pancetta or guanciale. Cook the garlic and pancetta in 2 tablespoon olive oil until fragrant and add to the beans. Stir and serve. Decorate bowls with chopped cherry tomatoes.
This recipe is from my friend Roberta, owner of Trattoria degli Umbria a lovely restaurant in the centre of Assisi.