Insalata di Fagiole del Purgatorio is simply put, white bean salad. I came across a bag of these small white beans with the unusual name that resembled the Tuscan cannellini beans in my local grocery store here in Umbria, and having never heard of them before had to buy them. Reading more about them once I got them home, I found out that fagioli del purgatorio (“Purgatorial Beans”) are a particular variety of white beans that are small, have a tender husk, and a delicate flavor. Although they apparently come from Lazio, they are now grown in Umbria as well. According to historical sources, Fagioli del Purgatorio are native to Gradoli on lake Bolsena, in Lazio. Gradoli is the home of the Confraternita del Purgatorio . This association, founded more than five centuries ago annually organizes a “Purgatorial Lunch” during Lent which is how these beans got their unusual name. Traditionally, the meal consisted principally of beans. Even today, held on Ash Wednesday, the Purgatorial beans are synonymous with expiation of sins.
Although these beans are delicious in soups and stews, I found they made a perfect bean salad as well. You can substitute any small white bean such as cannellini or even a pinto bean for the fagiole del pugatorio in this recipe with great results. I have made this salad with cannellini beans myself for many, many years and have always found it delicious. I often add these beans to an antipasti spread, or serve them as a side dish with grilled meats.
Deborah Mele 2011
Insalata di Fagiole del Purgatorio
A light bean salad made from traditional Umbrian beans. Use any small dried white beans for this salad.
- 1 Pound Dried White Beans (Cannellini or Pinto)
- Pinch Baking Soda
- 1 Carrot, Cut In Half
- 1 Celery Stick, Cut In Half
- 1/2 Onion, Peeled And Quartered
- 1 Sprig Rosemary
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- 3 to 4 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar (Or More As Needed)
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
- 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Red Onion
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- The night before serving, rinse the beans picking out any bad ones and place in a large bowl.
- Cover with water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak at least 12 hours.
- The next day, drain well, and place the beans in a heavy stock pot with the vegetables and rosemary and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
- Drain, remove the vegetables and rosemary sprig.
- Place the beans in a large bowl and dress with the remaining ingredients while still warm.
- Taste, and adjust seasonings and vinegar as needed.
- Toss well, and serve at room temperature.