What’s Cooking Wednesday: Borlotti Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic & Basil

“Are you cookin’ beeeeeans?

Anyone remember David Letterman’s obnoxiously saying this over and over? Well, it was funny, I swear.

Today, amici, the answer to the title question is–YES! I’m cookin’ beans! And you can too!

And yes, I’ll stop with the exclamation points.

Inspired by Shannon at Tales From the Fairy Blogmother, we’re starting a little something called “What’s Cooking Wednesday” around here.

When I told P this, his eyes grew wide and he ran off a quick list of future featured dishes. He’s an excellent cook with a passion for (mostly Calabrian) food, so you won’t be disappointed. I’m only sorry I didn’t take a picture of his “Linguine agli scampi” (linguini with prawns) the other night.


So, because he told me I can only do paesana recipes (wonder how long *that* will last), today’s is P’s mom’s Borlotti beans with tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Only a few ingredients, but do set aside a couple hours’ cooking time.

For a primer on today’s featured bean, check out Darla’s entry, conveniently titled The Borlotti Bean. As Darla writes, these are late summer/early autumn beans, but lucky for me, I have a suocera (mother-in-law)* that freezes in-season treats and then passes them to us just when we’re craving them.

Borlotti beans with tomatoes, garlic & basil
(serves 4)

  • 2 lbs. of Borlotti beans
  • 6 medium cloves garlic (leave whole)
  • 6 plum tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • peperoncino (hot pepper flakes will do)
  • salt to taste

1. Shell beans and place in cold water. Bring water to a boil, and leave beans there for about 5 minutes or until they are about half-cooked.

2. While the beans are in the water, peel the garlic, wash and chop the tomatoes, and wash the basil leaves.

3. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the beans (or, if you’re going hard core paesano/a, a terra cotta pot), and add the garlic, tomatoes, and basil. Also put in some peperoncino if you’re feeling spicy.

4. Remove the beans from the water with a slotted spoon (or otherwise drain so that you reserve the bean water) and place in the saucepan.

5. Add a cup of the bean water or enough so that they are covered.

6. Set on low heat and stir every now and again, but not too roughly or you’ll be a bean breaker. If you see the mixture is getting too dry and the beans aren’t done cooking yet, add more pasta water as needed. The beans should take about an hour and a half to two hours to cook through.

7. After about an hour, add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to your taste. The sauce should be thick when done. When you are ready to serve, drizzle some fresh olive oil directly on top.

8. You can also garnish with fresh sliced red onion–and of course this is to be enjoyed with fresh Italian bread.

Buon appetito!

*Note that it is common in Italy to begin calling your partner’s family your in-laws as soon you’re a couple. Of course, they also refer to an exclusive couple as “engaged” whether or not there’s a wedding in sight. Are you sensing a whole entry dedicated to this system at some time? Points for you!

19 Beans of Wisdom to “What’s Cooking Wednesday: Borlotti Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic & Basil”
  1. louisa

    I think I’ll give that delish looking soup a whirl. Do they have these beans in the supermarket? (i only have canned ones)

    I’m getting hungry and its only 15.05!


  2. Michellanea

    I like this. Very vegan friendly! Michelle

  3. sognatrice

    Louisa, I doubt the beans will be available fresh (at least in Italy) at this time of year, but you might find them dried. Then you’d need to soak them overnight first. To do this with canned, though, check out the recipe on the site I mentioned, and substitute my ingredients for his after he cooks the beans for 30-40 minutes. Seems like it should come out tasty this way too, but, well, Italian mammas are pretty durn particular about their methods, so I continue doing it the suocera’s way.

    Michelle, I’m responding to your other comment too, so I will say, in sum, yes, it sounds like you need to channel Calabria. And if you ever need to escape the smog, you know at least approximately where to find me!

  4. Annika

    You’ll get into the “think like a blogger” way of life soon, I promise. It really is a way of life, I constantly think as if I’m writing (??); I make up fragments of posts all the time and think that “oh, I need to write this!” – and then I sit down and it’s all gone. You’re a writer, you must do this too.

  5. Shan

    That looks yummy, but it would never pass here. Michael has an extreme dislike of beans and that’s probably putting it mildly. I’m sure it’s very yummy though.

  6. Delina

    I did almost the exact same dish yesterday spookily enough! I used the dry beans which you soak for hours. Yummy

  7. sognatrice

    Annika, the blogger thinking is gradually coming along; I was sitting waiting for yet another Italian (ouch!) and started jotting down some ideas…little by little…

    Shan, you know I used to *hate* beans until I came here. They eat so darn much of them (and yeah, they’re healthy, blah blah), that I couldn’t avoid them anymore. I’m happily finding that I actually like them! P still won’t try chili though, as he thinks it’s a “bomba” because of the meat *and* beans. He’s right, of course, but it’s so good!

    Delina, why does your comment not surprise me at all? Btw, I need to get a certain code from you because we’re finally ready for our deal. I’ll send you a message 😉

  8. Cherrye

    Hey there! I tried to post to your blog the day you started it, but, I don’t know, either I am cluess or Libero was having problems, but it didn’t show up.

    Nice dish. I love the idea. I will have to tune in on Wednesdays for sure to get in on this…Actually, Wednesday I leave to go to Texas for 6 weeks…need anything from the states?

    I can’t figure out how to make it actually post. On top of me being tech-illiterate, all of a sudden all of my computer pages are showing up in ITALIAN! HELP!

  9. sognatrice

    Cherrye, looks like you’re just going to have to learn Italian pretty quickly! I’ll think about my wishlist from the States, but my mom just sent me 4 packages (!) so I think I’m pretty well set for now. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Marmite Breath

    Italian bean dishes are the best! I love Pasta Ceci, Pasta Fagioli, Pasta Lenticche (would you consider lentils a bean or a legume? Whatever!).

    In fact, I’m craving something like that right now–these cold nights make me want something hearty and bean-y like that.


  11. Dusty Cooper

    my husband grew a ton of these beans. I am not exactly sure what to do with them all. I would like to have some this winter, what do you suggest?

    do you wait until they get dry then pick them and put them in bags, do you freeze them? what do you suggest… new to beans here…

    michelle Reply:

    Hi Dusty, thanks for coming by! This is some good info about how to harvest and store beans: http://www.selfsufficientish.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=20474 I know here they store them dry unless they first parboil and freeze partially cooked. I’ve never heard of anyone freezing them as dried beans, but that doesn’t mean they don’t — you may just have to experiment a bit this year to figure out what works best for you. Exciting!

  12. 04.28.2012

    Just discovered these goodies last week. I will certainly be adapting this recipe for the amount I ended up with! Thank you so much!

    michelle Reply:

    Hope you enjoy them, Jen!

    Jen Reply:

    YES! I’m so happy – I made beans and the hubby actually LIKED them! Didn’t hurt that they were fun to work with. 🙂 Thank you again!

    michelle Reply:

    Woohoo for borlotti beans! 🙂

    Jen Reply:

    Okay, these are in season in January here in Florida, and I’m buying them as fast as I can find them at our farmers’ markets….but we might be getting sick of them soon. Can they be frozen? Do I have to boil them for 5 mins first? Please help – would love to enjoy these later in the year, but they’re not available in the summer or fall. Thanks for any guidance you can offer!

    michelle Reply:

    Here is some good advice on bean storage: http://www.vegancoach.com/storing-beans-after-cooking.html though remember you can also just store them dry — they last quite a long time!

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



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