Bean Recipes from Soup to Salads


La Ribollita

This very filling bean and cabbage soup is one of Tuscany’s most famous soups.  La ribollita means “reboiled” and refers to the fact that, traditionally, the soup was reheated and served day after day.  To make it stretch further when there was a little meat and vegetables to spare, bread was added.  Even now, the soup is made the day before it is needed then reheated.  It is ladled over toasted garlic bread, drizzled with olive oil, and served with plenty of Parmesan.  Strictly speaking, the soup should be made with the delicious black Tuscan cabbage called cavolo nero, but Savoy cabbage is a good substitute.

Serves: 8 very generously / Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus overnight soaking / Cooking time: about 3 hours.

1/3-cup extra virgin olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 small white cabbage, shredded

1 large potato, chopped

4 zucchini, chopped

2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed

1 3/4 cups strained tomatoes

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 sprigs of thyme

2 sprigs of sage

1 dried red chili

8 3/4 cups water

4 cups cavolo nero or Savoy cabbage, finely shredded

Salt and pepper

To serve:

1/3-cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

8 thick slices of crusty white country-style bread

1 garlic clove, cruised

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.   Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Next add the leeks and garlic and cook for another 10 minutes.  Add the white cabbage, potato and zucchini, stir well and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

2.   Stir in the beans, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, sage, dried red chili, salt, and plenty of pepper.  Cover with the water (the vegetables should be well covered) and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for at least 2 hours, until the beans are very soft.

3.   Remove 2-3 ladlefuls of soup, mash it well or purée in a blender or food processor then return to the soup.  Stir in the cavolo nero or Savoy cabbage and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Leave the soup to cool then refrigerate overnight.

4.   The next day, slowly reheat the soup and stir in the olive oil.  Toast the slices of bread and rub them with the bruised garlic.  Arrange the bread in the base of a tureen or in individual bowls and ladle the soup over it.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.

White Bean and Sun-dried Tomato Salad

Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Cooking time: 2 minutes


1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 x 15-ounce can cannelli beans, drained and rinsed

1 red onion, sliced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons chopped black olives

2 teaspoons chopped capers

2 teaspoons chopped thyme

2 tablespoons parsley leaves

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

Salt and pepper

1.   Heat the oil in a frying pan.  Add the garlic and sauté over a high heat, stirring, to get a little color.  When it is golden, remove from the pan.

2.   Place the beans in a mixing bowl and stir in the garlic.  Add the onion, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, thyme, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste; mix well.  Check the seasoning and serve.

Couscous, Chickpea, and Shrimp Salad

This easy-to-make salad offers an interesting combination of textures and flavors.

Serves 4 as a light supper / Preparation time: 10 minutes

1 1/2 cups cooked couscous

1 x 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 pound cooked and peeled shrimp

2 scallions, thinly sliced

3 well-flavored tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Bunch of mint, chopped

Lemon wedges, to serve


3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup lemon juice

Pinch of superfine sugar


Salt and pepper

1.   To make the dressing, whisk together the oil and lemon juice in a small bowl or shake them together well in a screw-top jar.  Add the sugar, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.

2.   Mix the couscous with the chickpeas, shrimp, scallions, tomatoes, and mint. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to coat all the ingredients, Serve with lemon wedges.


From The Bean Book. Copyright © 2002 by Octopus Publishing Group, Ltd. Excerpted by arrangement with The Lyons Press, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press. $22.95. Available in local bookstores or click here.