Italians are geniuses in the kitchen. They can throw together the most simple of ingredients, and they are so good that I often find myself wanting to get up in the middle of a meal to write everything down. Of course, you have to ask the cook immediately how they prepared the meal or they will soon forget. Most meals here in Tuscany are improvised and great Italian cooks rely less on recipes and more on what’s in season and flavorful.
I’ve learned a bit from these Italian cooks I admire and I too am relying less on recipes these days and choosing to “play” with fresh ingredients from our orto (vegetable garden) and items I already have in my pantry.
What I love about this white bean salad creation is that it is so very easy, and it’s a great source of protein . It would make an excellent picnic salad because you can make it a day ahead; the extra time just gives the flavors more time to sink into the beans. Or you can throw it together for a quick lunch or dinner.
- 1 cup white (spagna) beans, rinsed and picked over
- 1/4 cup fine olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives, such as kalamata or niçoise
- fresh juice of 1/2 a lemon (or more to taste)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- To quick soak the beans: Place the beans in a large pot with water and cover by 3 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse. If you don’t have the time you can always use canned beans for this recipe. They are usually not as flavorful, but will do in a time crunch.
- To cook the beans: Place the beans in a large pot and add enough water to cover by 3 to 4 inches. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until beans are tender but still firm. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly. Set aside to cool.
- Chop up the red onion and place it into a big bowl. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to it and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients. The lemon will take the edge off of the onion.
- Toss the beans, onion, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl with a the olive oil and fresh lemon juice until just combined. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use or up to 1 day. (Note: you can also add a tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar to the dressing if you wish)