September 3, 2008

Taste of Tuscany- Fresh Beans

Shelling fresh Lamon beans from Cuneo

One of the best things about the markets in Italy is the service.

I love going to get my beans and my lovely vendor is sitting there shelling the beans for me!
It makes life so much easier.

I also adore cooking fresh beans as they only take about 30 minutes instead of hours for dried beans.

In American, my personal bean guru is Steve at Rancho Gordo.
He can get beans to you from his site, and now you can also get his book!!!!
His blog is full of great ideas too on cooking beans.

As the hot summer days are leaving us and cooler evenings and even rain is arriving. Soothing soups come to mind. If it is still hot outside, they can be eaten warm instead of hot.

To create a full meal, add a pasta or rice (or as we do here Farro, called spelt or emmer) to create a perfect protein. Soul food for Italians!

Made with tiny macaroni, known as Pasta Fasool by many or Pasta e Fagioli in Italian
there are as many variations as there are mothers.

Zuppa di Farro e Fagioli
Tuscan bean soup with Farro

12 ounces dried white beans, cannellini, pinto beans or cranberry beans called Lamon here
2 quarts water
2 garlic cloves
1 sage branch
1-tablespoon salt
3-tablespoons olive oil

3 oz farro

First cook beans:
Place beans and cold water in a heavy-bottomed bean pot.
Add sage, olive oil and whole peeled garlic cloves.
Cook slowly. Do not let the water boil. Add more cold water as needed.

Cooking time, anywhere from 2 to 3 hours if you are using dry beans or 30 minutes for fresh.
Add salt in the last 10 minutes of cooking time to prevent the beans from getting tough.
Tasting is the only way to know that the beans are done.
The beans can also be cooked in the oven in a casserole.
You can serve the beans drained, drizzled with olive oil and a twist of fresh black pepper.

To make Soup:
Parboil farro in salted water.
Purée half the beans and put the remaining whole beans in a soup pot together.
Heat, adding more water if soup seems too thick.
Add farro to soup and heat together.

In a small pot, heat 1 tbs of olive oil per person and 1 tsp of Tuscan Herbs, just to warm.
Drizzle into soup.

Enjoy this recipe as  pasta fasool, substituting short macaroni for the farro, precooking it in salted water. I also usually add a little tomato paste to add color.

Here is another twist on the classic which I enjoy at a wonderful trattoria outside of Florence.

Burde’s Zuppa di Fagioli
Bean Soup from Burde’s Trattoria outside of Florence

Cook the beans and farro together until the farro is really over-cooked.

In a small skillet, sauté one red onion, chopped, in some extra virgin olive oil.
Season to taste with Droghe Toscane, similar to pumpkin pie mixture and when the onions are softened, add to the soup. Add tomato paste and some water.

Purée the ingredients together until smooth. (In Italy I use a Passatutto, a food mill to remove any skins)

Life is as simple as a bowl of beans!
Enjoy the simple pleasures of the season.


  1. I saw these reddish beans at Mercato S. Ambrogio yesterday and was tempted to buy them but had no idea what to do with them and bought the green ones instead (which I used as a side dish). I think I'll this soup soon as it looks great!

  2. Fresh beans season was over quite a while ago in Positano, but even though i had to buy them I made pasta e fagoioli quite a few times. In Positano they make it with 'pasta mista'.
    Coming back to Luxembourg this week i was pleased to see that they are almost ready for picking.
    Time for a repeat performance.

  3. Scintilla,
    I was recently down south and had the pasta mista and just found it up here in Tuscany too!
    love it!

  4. Lisa in Laurel1:24 AM

    I'm in the states and am happy to see Fall approaching and with it soup/bean weather. I want to try making these soups with my daughter. One question though - what is Droghe Toscane and where can we find it ?


  5. As I mentioned in the note, Droghe Toscane, is a blend of spices like our pumpkin pie spice, but not so heavy in cinnamon. Ginger, Coriander,Nutmeg, Allspice..and more!

    We use it to make Panforte.

    it gives a nice touch, try adding some nutmeg, ginger and a touch if cinnamon.

  6. Anonymous9:26 PM

    Hi Diva,

    nice Blog! If you like, you can promote your Blog on Garlicoon, a social Food & Wine network.


  7. Since we left Napa, I've not had Steve's beans - he used to sell at the farmers' market there. Thanks for the link - will order some soon.