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The Kitchn: The best, easiest way to make canned beans taste homemade

The Kitchn: The best, easiest way to make canned beans taste homemade

From the 5 easy, meatless recipes to make this week series
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Canned beans can be just as rich and creamy as dried.

As much as I appreciate the slow and steady act of simmering a pot of dried beans, canned beans are my lifeline. They’re what I reach for most nights when I’m need of a quick, protein-rich meal that doesn’t rely on the ubiquitous boneless, skinless chicken breast. And with a little TLC, canned beans can be just as rich and creamy as dried. Here’s how: Simmer them in an olive oil and tomato-rich broth infused with garlic and herbs, and in just about 30 minutes, you have a stewy pot of beans to ladle over thick slices of toast.

A humble bean dinner for these cold winter nights

Throughout Italy, Tuscans are lovingly referred to as mangiafagioli, or “bean-eaters,” so to say they know a thing or two about the legume is an understatement. Their rustic cuisine is full of bean-focused dishes, such as ribollita and fagioli all’uccelletto, the latter being one of my very favorites. Fagioli all’uccelletto — white beans stewed in a light tomato sauce with a generous amount of olive oil, garlic and sage — translates to “beans in the style of little birds,” meaning they’re seasoned as Tuscans would traditionally season game bird like pheasant. Centuries ago, the rich would be served these beans alongside the pheasant, but the rest would be served the beans on their own, or occasionally with sausage.

Today these beans continue to be a staple in Tuscan homes and trattorias. This recipe is my twist on the humble dish. Traditional recipes start with dried white beans, but this weeknight-friendly version takes advantage of canned. Letting the beans simmer in lots of olive oil that’s fragrant with garlic and sage rids them of their dull flavor and bolsters their creamy texture. I love using canned cherry tomatoes here, which are ultra-sweet and juicy, but canned diced tomatoes work just as well.

Serve the stewy beans over slabs of garlicky, skillet-fried sourdough to turn them into a hearty and complete meal that’s just about as comforting as it gets.

Brothy Tuscan White Beans with Garlic-Fried Bread

Serves 4

  • 2 (about 15-ounce) cans white beans
  • 5 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 1 (about 14-ounce) can cherry or diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 thick slices crusty sourdough bread
  • Flaky salt (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Drain and rinse 2 cans white beans. Smash and peel 5 garlic cloves.

2. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add 4 of the garlic cloves, 6 fresh sage leaves and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil is very fragrant and the garlic is lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, chicken broth or water and 1 can cherry or diced tomatoes and their juices. Add the white beans, season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat.

4. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld and the liquid reduces slightly, about 30 minutes. Toast the bread about 15 minutes into the simmering time.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large cast iron or regular skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 2 slices of the sourdough bread and fry until golden-brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer each slice to individual shallow bowls. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 bread slices. Rub the fried bread all over with the reserved garlic clove and sprinkle with a pinch of flaky or kosher salt.

6. Remove the beans from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed.

7. Ladle the brothy beans over the fried bread. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and, if desired, a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Recipe notes

  • To use cooked dried beans, use 3 cups cooked beans with about 2 cups of their cooking liquid. Skip the broth or water.
  • Leftover beans can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to five days.

(Sheela Prakash is a senior contributing food editor at TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.)

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