Fagioli All’uccelletto (Stewed Beans in Tomato Sauce)
This is perhaps one of Tuscany’s most iconic recipes: cannellini beans cooked together with tomato paste over low heat until the beans turn creamy. You’ll find this dish in nearly every trattoria throughout Tuscany, either as a hearty side or as a main course.
The name comes from Pellegrino Artusi, the writer of the bible of the Italian cuisine, “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” (1891). He noted that these beans were prepared with the same seasonings used to cook uccellini, or small birds—namely sage and garlic. Often fresh pork sausages are added to the beans, making this a hearty, filling dish.
- 3 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other white bean), with their cooking liquid
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, unpeeled
- A few sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 fresh pork sausages
In a large, deep pot, heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add an unpeeled garlic clove and a few sage leaves. When the garlic has seasoned the oil and the sage leaves begin to change color, remove the garlic and pour in the whole beans, along with a few ladlefuls of their cooking liquid. Add the tomato paste to color the beans, adjust for salt and pepper, and let simmer on low for about 20 minutes, to allow the flavors to combine.
Remove the casings from the sausages and add them to the beans. Cook until the meat is completely cooked through.
Serve hot, with toasted Tuscan bread to mop up the juices.