We were recently at an Italian festival here in Toronto and passed a produce market selling bushels of fresh borlotti beans. I really wanted to buy them as it is rare to see them sold fresh, but I certainly did not need an entire bushel, and since we walked to the festival which was a good two to three miles from our condo, I could not see us lugging home a huge container of beans! I couldn’t get the beans out of my thoughts though, and when I went for a long walk later that day I passed another market selling fresh borlotti beans closer to home. I promptly went in and bought two pounds which I brought home to prepare as a side dish for our dinner that evening.
Borlotti beans are quite similar to cannellini beans except they are streaked with red when fresh (see photo below). In North America, cranberry beans are often used interchangeably with borlotti beans. After they are cooked, they turn light brown and have a slightly nutty flavor. I decided to slowly cook my beans with some tomatoes and other flavorings until they were tender, allow them to cool, then drizzle with some really flavorful extra virgin olive oil I have been saving for something special. I always have a mild flavored extra virgin olive oil that I use for cooking on hand, as well as a sharper, first pressed extra virgin oil I use as a condiment to add a splash of flavor to foods before serving. Delicious! Be careful not to add salt until the beans are fully cooked as the addition of salt too early will toughen the skin.
My Fresh Shelled Borlotti Beans Before Cooking
Deborah Mele 2011
- 1 1/2 to 2 Pounds Fresh Borlotti Beans
- 1 Stalk Celery, Finely Diced
- 1 Small Onion, Finely Dices
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped or Cherry Tomatoes
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley or Basil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Chopped Fresh Parsley
- Remove the beans from the pods and place in a bowl.
- In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and add the celery and onion.
- Cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook just until fragrant.
- Add the shelled beans and stir to coat in the oil mixture.
- Next add the can of tomatoes, chopped parsley, plus one can full of water.
- Bring to a bowl and then decrease the heat to medium low.
- Cook until the beans are softened but not yet mushy, about 1 hour, adding additional water if the mixture becomes too dry.
- Once cooked, remove the beans from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the remaining chopped parsley.
- Before serving drizzle with some additional extra virgin olive oil.