This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Italian Trade Commission / The Extraordinary Italian Taste. All opinions are 100% mine.
These Tuscan White Beans are a simple, yet delicious Italian recipe featuring white beans, extra virgin olive oil, San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino tomatoes PDO and a bit of fresh sage. Enjoy!
Laura and I have discovered that we enjoy re-visiting the same places on vacation. I’m not saying we repeat the exact same vacation each year, but we enjoy combining new sights and stops with previous destinations. There’s just something nostalgic about seeing an old favorite, right? This past May, Laura and I spent a week in Italy. We split our time between Florence and Venice, and it was an excellent vacation. From the scenery to the history (I’m a Roman history buff) to the food, you can’t go wrong with Italy!
While we were based in Florence for the second half of the trip, we did hire a tour guide to take us on a couple of day-trips out into the Tuscan wine country. Laura and I went to Italy for our honeymoon a number of years ago, and we stayed in the little town of Greve-in-Chianti. Greve is a quintessential Italian village. Surrounding the main square are a hotel, a meat shop, a cheese shop and several restaurants. Lunches each day were literally a stop by the meat store for salami, a stop by the cheese store for Pecorino and a stop by the bakery for a loaf of fresh Italian bread. Then we sat in the square tearing off hunks of bread and eating it with the salami and Pecorino. Delicious!
Fast forward 8 years, and we found ourselves back in the Tuscan wine country. Funny how Italy has that effect, right? We asked our tour guide if we could stop by Greve-in-Chianti for a short visit for ole times’ sake. We had reservations for a cheese-making class in a nearby town, but we managed to get a few minutes to visit Greve again. I loved it! It brought back all of the fun memories from our first visit to this charming Italian village.
On our first visit to Greve, Laura ordered a side dish that was listed as simply ‘fagioli’ on the menu. Fagioli translates to ‘beans’ in English, but this dish was so much more than just beans! In fact, Laura proclaimed it to be the best beans she’d ever eaten. But the secret to these fagioli was good extra virgin olive oil. The couple dining near us had also ordered the fagioli, and we noticed that they drizzled extra virgin olive oil on top of the dish there at the table. When in
Rome Greve-in-Chianti, do as the locals do…so we followed suit. Wow! Talk about taking a good recipe and making it great. Laura still talks about that fagioli recipe to this day!
Francesco, our tour guide on the recent trip, was a really interesting guy. Not only was he knowledgeable about the towns and history of the area, but he had a bunch of really interesting personal anecdotes, too. As we made our way through the winding hills of the Tuscan wine country, Francesco and I got to talking about extra virgin olive oil. I know a little bit about extra virgin olive oil, and I use extra virgin olive oil quite a bit when cooking. But Francesco taught me so much more!
Did you know that different regions in Italy are known for different extra virgin olive oils? It makes sense, though. Not only do the varieties of olives change as you go from region to region, but the climates change, too. This leads to different flavor profiles in the olives as well as the extra virgin olive oils from that region.
For instance, the Tuscany region produces extra virgin olive oils that are fruity with hints of almonds. Tuscan extra virgin olive oils (Olio Toscano PGI) also have fruity profile with just a hint of pepper. But travel south to the Sicilian region, and you’ll find extra virgin olive oils (Val di Mazara PDO) that are more full-bodied with a hints of artichoke. If you get the chance, try a taste test with different Italian olives oils. You’ll be surprised at the differences when you taste them side-by-side!
Similar to how certain wines (i.e. Chianti) can only be produced in certain regions, extra virgin olive oils have the same protected status, too. PGI stands for Protected Geographical Indication. In short, these are laws that protect different foods from different regions. When you see the PGI label on an Italian product (like extra virgin olive oil), it’s an easy way to verify that product’s authenticity. For instance, bottles of extra virgin olive oil cannot be labeled “Olio Toscano PGI” unless they were actually made in the Tuscan region. In fact, you can enter the code from that bottle on the Olio Toscano PGI website and trace the oil back to see who grew the olives, who pressed them and then who bottled the oil. Pretty cool, huh?
A lot of products might sound Italian, but the PGI system is how you actually know they’re Italian. Check out the Italian Made website to learn more about authentic Italian foods from extra virgin olive oils and vinegars to salumi and cheeses. If you like food, then this is a fun website to wander around!
Tuscan White Beans
Let’s shift our focus slightly over to a recipe that uses Italian extra virgin olive oil. After poring through a number of cookbooks and websites (some of them in Italian), I finally headed off to the kitchen to take a stab at these Tuscan White Beans. The goal was to create something similar to that now-famous ‘fagioli’ dish that Laura ordered years ago in Greve.
Like many Italian dishes, these Tuscan White Beans are simple. For that reason, I highly recommend using the best ingredients you can find. For instance, I used a Tuscan extra virgin olive oil that had the “Olio Toscano PGI” label. I also used a can of San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino tomatoes PDO. (As I’ve mentioned before, San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino tomatoes PDO have incredible flavor!) After letting those Tuscan White beans simmer on the stove for a bit, I nervously took a spoon and carried it over to Laura. (And, yes, I drizzled a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil on that spoonful.) One bite and her eyes lit up. She proclaimed these to be quite similar to that version from Greve. Success!
If you’re looking for an excellent Italian dish, then I highly recommend these Tuscan White Beans. Make sure to use authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil and San Marzano tomatoes though…the difference is noticeable! Enjoy, my friends!
Click here to discover more about PGI labels and authentic Italian ingredients!
Looking for more tasty Italian recipes? Check out some of these other favorites:
Tuscan White Beans
- 16 oz. dried white beans Great Northern, cannellini, navy, etc.
- ¼ cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil Olio Toscano PGI, plus more for finishing
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 16 oz. can peeled San Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese-Nocerino tomatoes PDO undrained
- 2 Tbsp fresh sage chopped
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Rustic Italian bread for serving
- Using a large saucepan, add dried beans and enough water to cover beans by at least 2”; let soak at room temperature overnight.
- Drain beans and return to saucepan. Add enough water to cover beans by at least 2”. Place over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and continue simmering beans for 45-50 minutes, or until tender. Drain beans, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid.
- Using a large sauté pan, add extra virgin olive oil and garlic; place over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add cooked beans, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, sage, salt, pepper and reserved cooking liquid. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until mixture has thickened.
- Prior to serving, drizzle finished dish with additional Tuscan extra virgin olive oil (Olio Toscano PGI).
- Serve with rustic Italian bread.