There is a common misconception that Italians are big eaters and the majority are overweight. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In my travels I have found them to be extremely thin and fit. During our trip, Kelly and I determined the secret to eating wonderful Italian cuisine with all of the carbs in the hearty breads and the tasty pasta could only be the staple we found at many of the meals………beans!
Diets including beans can reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers. It is a food high in protein to “start your engine” and virtually fat free while containing more fiber than many whole grain foods. Because of the high fiber content they tend to fill you up quickly and prevent you from overeating. Someone suggested it takes more calories to digest the beans than they contain. Now that is the kind of food I want to be hooked on.
The great thing about this recipe is you can change it up by adding diced tomatoes or okra or any other vegetable you have an abundance of. You can also add some bits of fried prosciutto or Italian sausage for spice. This would not be as healthy, but a nice change if you serve beans often.
Since being home from Italy I have made the beans almost weekly in a large pot. I have tried cannellini beans, lentils and navy beans. They are all good, but I prefer the cannellini beans personally.
1-2 lb. bag of dry cannellini or navy beans
1-48 oz. box of chicken broth
1 medium onion diced
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 bay leaf
5 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 Empty the beans into a large mixing bowl and fill to the top with water, allowing to soak overnight.
2 Dice the onion and mince the garlic while the olive oil is warming in a 5 quart pot.
3 Add the onion and garlic to the pot and allow to become transparent around 3 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.
4 While the onion and garlic are cooking to tender rinse and sort the beans.
5 Add the beans and bay leaf to the pot and cover with chicken stock.
6 Bring to a boil stirring occasionally.
7 Reduce heat to medium (a soft rolling boil) and stir occasionally so they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook beans until tender.
The beans should be tender and a creamy sauce should develop from stirring in about an hour.
Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and enjoy a healthy and satisfying meal.