Tuscans are a proud people, their cuisine generally straightforward and satisfying often an outgrowth of Cucina Povera. The moniker Magiafagiole, or bean eaters is a playful reference to their affinity for bean dishes. Tuscan Style Beans is a rustic preparation which is served as a staple or basis for a variety of other dishes.
Tuscan Style Beans generally use dried Cannellini or Great Northern beans, however is not necessarily limited to these. I prefer to use a terra-cotta cooking vessel to prepare beans, cooking them very slowly. When using a terra-cotta on the stove top it’s best to use a flame tamer to disperse the heat in a gentle way. Tuscan Style Beans can be prepared using a enameled cast iron pot either over the flame or in the oven.
Truthfully my preferred method of cooking is in a wood fired oven. The smoke permeates the terra-cotta and the resulting beans are mellow and creamy with a hint of smoke. The tradition at Casa Levitt, after an afternoon of pizza entertaining, is to put a pot of soaked beans into the forno as the temperature begins to lower. After several hours, allora the bean pot is pulled from the ashen floor and we have a supply to last for the coming week.
There is actually very little involved in preparing Tuscan Style Beans. The dried beans require rinsing, soaking overnight and the addition of some typical Tuscan elements such as sage, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. The beans are seasoned with salt and olive oil at serving time. The buttery fagioli are divine on a winter’s evening, but as I mentioned earlier they serve as the basis for any number of dishes. A bruschetta using the beans along with some sautéed greens, Pasta Fagioli, Escarole & Beans, Beans & Sausage, Tuna & Bean Salad and as a side for the acclaimed Beefsteak Florentine.
Tuscan Style Beans are La Levitt’s absolute favorite and perhaps the dish she longs for most when returning home from university….
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- 1 pound dried Cannellini or Great Northern Beans
- fresh water
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 large sage sprig
- 3 unpeeled cloves of garlic
- Terra Cotta Bean Pot & Flame Tamer or Enamel Cast Iron Pot
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sage sprigs for garnish
- The day before you plan to cook the beans, place them in a strainer and rinse well with cool water. Check the beans for particles and remove any extraneous material. Put the rinsed beens into either the Bean Pot or Enamel Cast Iron Pot and cover with 2 inches of fresh water. The beans should be soaked overnight.
- The next day pour out the soaked beans in a strainer and rinse well with fresh running water; the beans will have doubled in size. Place the beans back into the cooking vessel, if using a terra cotta pot place the flame tamer on the heating element first. Cover the beans with 2 inches of fresh cool water; add the sage sprig, garlic cloves and olive oil to the pot and slowly bring the pot to a gentle boil. Simmer the beans gently until tender - if using the terra cotta bean pot this can take between 2 to 3 hours, if using an enamel cast iron pot the time should between 45 to 60 minutes. Once the beans are tender, remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
- At the time of serving, reheat the beans gently and season with salt. Place into serving bowl and season with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and garnish with sage.