A vegan and gluten free recipe with beans cooked in a light tomato sauce
The mediterranean diet is a healthy eating plan consisting of many plant based recipes, fish and sea food from the Mediterranean Sea, and small amounts of meat. Oh, and abundant olive oil! Beans are a very important part of this diet and many generations have grown eating beans and legumes as a source of plant based protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber.
As I said above, beans have raised many generations, simply because they are really cheap and an almost complete meal. They contain complex carbohydrates to give you energy throughout the day, a lot of protein for healthy muscles and they’re low in fat. That’s the reason they’re very popular until today.
Some years ago, I was lucky enough to go on a trip in Italy and taste firsthand the amazing Italian cuisine. I spent 4 days in Rome and another 4 in Florence. Well, I tell you this; besides all the incredible places and the well dressed people, there were so many foods everywhere I went and everywhere I looked, that the biggest souvenirs I got were 2 extra pounds! That was also the first time I encountered those little sweet doughy tubes filled with a cream cheese mixture, called cannoli!!! (I’m seriously thinking of using three exclamation points every time I mention the word cannoli). Anyway, when I was in Florence, I tried some beans and to my surprise they were quite similar to the beans my mother makes! This is my version of the classic Tuscan style white beans – or fagioli bianchi as called in Italy 🙂
In Italy there are no canned beans. I mean, you can buy them from a supermarket if you want to, but nobody does. Everyone I know uses dried beans. That’s the cheapest way, and that’s what they did in the past. I’ve found that the best way to cook beans is with a pressure cooker. BUT, since I don’t have one I had to find an equally effective method. And that is soaking the beans overnight in salted water. This method helps them cook a little faster and more evenly. Just remember to drain and rinse them well before cooking!
Some people complain that beans cause some bloating issues. The truth is that they do, but this effect is reduced the more often you eat them because your body “adjusts” to them. To reduce bloating, you should boil them for 10 minutes, discard the water and add new, hot water in the pot. Some say that adding some ground mustard seeds while cooking, will also help a little.
Some notes/tips for perfectly cooked beans:
- Soak them overnight in a large bowl with salted water. Rinse well before cooking.
- Boil them in soft water (low in minerals) and don’t add any salt until they’re soft. In some places they even use rain water to cook them!
- Don’t use very old beans (older than a year).
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- 1 pound dried white beans (cannellini, or the variety you prefer), soaked overnight
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- ½ cup celery, chopped (or chopped parsley)
- 1 clove garlic (whole or chopped for stronger flavor)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 vegetable bouillon cube, or 1 tablespoon powdered (you can also use chicken if not vegan)
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Some red pepper flakes for serving
- From the previous night, rinse the beans and place them in a pot with enough water to cover them, about 3 inches high. Add 1 tablespoon salt and stir to dilute.
- The next day, rinse them very well and add enough water to cover them, about 1 inch high.
- Bring to a boil. At the same time, bring another pot of water (about 1 gallon) to a boil.
- After 10 minutes of boiling the beans drain them, return to the pot and add enough boiling water to cover them.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender (about 50 to 60 minutes, or longer depending on the beans and the hardness of the water). During this process check the water level and if you see it very low, add some extra water to cover the beans.
- When beans are tender, add all the rest ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes more or until all the vegetables are tender too.
Choose some good quality beans, since that will affect the end result. Also, the older the beans are, the longer they will need to cook.
If your tap water is hard (with a high mineral content) it is best to boil them with some soft (low mineral) bottled water. It makes great difference!
Remember not to add salt until the beans are really tender and soft.