How to cook beans

How to cook beans

By
From
Tuscany
Makes
1.35 kg
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Tuscans are known colloquially as mangiafagioli (beaneaters) and can boast over 20 varieties of bean in their region. They are said to be poor man’s protein and have given valuable nutrients in the form of protein and carbohydrate to Tuscans since Etruscan times. They form an important part of the healthy Mediterranean diet and you often find them in the diets of people who have long lives.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
500g dried cannellini, borlotti, or other similar-sized beans
2 garlic cloves
small handful sage leaves
3 litres water
1-2 teaspoons salt, according to taste

Method

  1. If you grow your own beans you know how old they are, but when we buy packets from the shops we have no idea how long they’ve been hanging around. The older they are, the drier they are, so be prepared to cook them for as long as necessary to make sure they are soft.
  2. Pick over the beans, discarding any stones or broken beans. Rinse the remaining beans under cold running water. To speed up the cooking time and help the beans hold their shape once cooked, soak them in plenty of cold water so that they are well covered; small beans for a minimum of 4 hours (or overnight), and large beans, such as butter beans, for at least 8 hours. To speed up the soaking process, put the washed beans into a saucepan of plenty of cold water and bring to the boil. Allow them to boil for 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Cover and let them soak for 1 hour in the warm water.
  3. Drain the soaked beans, then put them in a heavy-based saucepan with the garlic and sage. Pour in the water, ensuring that the top of the beans are covered by a 5 cm layer of water, and add the salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender, stirring occasionally. The cooking time will vary hugely so check the beans regularly. To give you an idea, soaked small beans take around 1 hour and large beans take around 1 1/2 hours. Make sure they are always submerged in water, adding more as necessary. Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) can speed up the cooking, but it affects the flavour and destroys some nutrients so we don’t use it. Cool cooked beans in the cooking liquid before draining. They will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  4. For soups, or when serving with fish or meat, purée one third of the beans with a stick blender for a slightly thicker consistency, or blend all of them to a velvety cream. If serving them as they are, for a vegetable dish, dress the beans with your best peppery extra-virgin olive oil and season to taste.
  5. Cooking beans without soaking

    Beans can be cooked without any soaking; you just need to allow longer for them to cook. They are best cooked slowly in the oven. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Rinse the beans and pick over the beans. Put them and any flavourings into a heavy-based casserole dish and pour in enough cold water to cover them by 3 cm. Cover with the lid and cook in the oven for up to 2 hours or until soft.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again