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Fagioli col tonno e cipolle – Tuna and bean salad

Tuscans are sometimes nicknamed mangiafagioli, for their love of beans.  And it is true that beans are served quite a lot in Tuscany: as soup, combined with pasta, or as a contorno for meat dishes.  This salad is also very popular.  You need only a few ingredients, but they should be of top quality for this dish to work out beautifully.  

The dish is usually prepared with the cannellini variety of beans – every city in Tuscany however has its own local favourite, but they’re very hard to come by outside Tuscany.  It is perfectly OK to use dried beans, but canned ones are an absolute no-no.

Not so long ago, beans were cooked in a Chianti bottle (fagioli al fiasco) whereby the straw around the bottle was used as a stopper.  Nowadays, you can buy specially designed bottles for this purpose.

The tuna should be of the very best quality, preferably ventresca preserved in olive oil.

The olive oil that is used to dress the salad should be extra vergine, from a well-known estate.  An olive oil from the Lucca countryside such as Fubbiano or Matraja would be perfect, but another Tuscan oil would do very nicely, or a Ligurian one made of the taggiasca variety.

Ingredients for the beans preparation

  • 250 g dried cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Put the beans in a large pot, and cover with cold water.  Let stand overnight or at least 12 hours.  The beans will soak up the water and regain their shape.  Drain the beans and cover again with fresh water, and add all the other ingredients.  Slowly bring to the boil, and simmer until the beans are tender.  This can take anything from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans.  If it takes more than 2 hours the beans were too old in the first place, and should probably be discarded.  The beans should be tender (not al dente !) but still hold their shape.  Add a teaspoon of salt 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Drain the beans.

Ingredients for the salad

  • cooked beans (above)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 200 gr tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
  • salt and pepper

Drain the cooked beans and dress with the olive oil while still warm.  The heat of the beans will release all the fragrances of the olive oil.  Add some black pepper and salt.  Add the tuna and the onion rings. Let the salad cool down to room temperature and serve with a dry, white wine (e.g. a Montecarolo).

Perfect as part of a antipasto misto or as a light lunch. 

Posted in Cucinone in English, Recipes.

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