Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fagioli all’uccelletto

This is a famous Tuscan bean dish that I love. Tuscan cooking tends to be sparse due to the fact that Tuscans are not fond of excess. They don’t rely on sauces or garnishes to disguise the natural taste of the food. Tuscans are also very fond of beans which why they are referred to as mangiafagioli or “bean eater” elsewhere in Italy.

Traditionally this dish is simply prepared. Onions are not included in the authentic Italian recipes I have seen, but I think they add a nice sweet flavor to the sauce. Also olive oil is used more liberally in the traditional version but I wanted a cleaner dish. Additionally this dish is normally served by itself (no polenta). However, since this is going to be my entrée tonight I thought it needed additional interest so I added the polenta to be a bed for the beans.

One of the things I love about this dish is the simply and how quick it comes together. If you keep cooked cannelini beans in the freezer you can have this dish ready in less than 30 minutes since the sauce should be fresh tasting. This makes a great weekday dinner. Here is what I did

Fagioli all’uccelletto: White Beans with Tomato and Sage over Polenta
Serves 4


1 cup of cannelini beans, soaked overnight
water to cook the cannelini beans
1 ½ cups polenta (dry)
5 cups water
2 cloves garlic, peeled grated
2 sage leaves, finely minced
½ red onion, finely minced
¼ cup of water to water sauté the onions
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 - 12 sage leaves cut into thin strips
14 ounces tomato sauce


Cook the beans in water until tender. Now drain the beans and set them aside.

Combine the polenta, cold water, garlic and sage and whisk to combine. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until the polenta thickness and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Taste the polenta when you think it is done to make certain the texture is correct. If it is still grainy, add more liquid and cook it longer.

Water sauté the onions until soft. Add the garlic, olive oil and sage leaves and cook until the garlic begins to soften. Now add the tomato sauce and beans and cook for 10 minutes.

Serve the fagioli all’uccelletto over the polenta. If desired drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil in each serving (about a teaspoon per serving). Add a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to the top of each serving.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 428.37
Calories From Fat (10%) - 42.74

Total Fat - 4.8g
Saturated Fat - 0.61g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 542.93mg
Potassium - 1257.03mg
Total Carbohydrates - 78.79g
Fiber - 12.49g
Sugar - 4.25g
Protein - 18.02g


This dish has a lovely musky aroma from the sage, assuming you like sage like I do. While I don’t tend to repeat dishes very often this one has special appeal for me.

If you are a red wine drinker, this dish goes well with a nice Chianti Riserva. I think that is because they are both Tuscan. As I heard often said “if it grows together it goes together” and that holds true for this dish and Chianti. This dish is also good with crostini, which is more traditional.

Like most bean dishes this one will taste better tomorrow after a night in the refrigerator. I try to make extra so we have leftovers for the next day but we love this so much there isn’t always any extra.

I served this tonight with baked squash with Mostarda made with apples, cranberries and golden raisins. I will post that recipe next.


  1. This looks great; it sounds so satisfying and hearty with the squash and mostarda.

  2. Rose,

    Thanks! :) It is one of my favorite Tuscan dishes. My husband was quick to point out that I mixed my Italian city states (Tuscany and Lombardy) with dinner tonight. Sometimes it best not to share everything (he likes to remind me what I said).

    I may not get the squash recipe posted tonight, I am starting to slow down and haven't cleaned the kitchen completely yet.

    talk to you soon,

  3. This looks about my speed. I will try to make it this week. I hope to make your seitan today.

  4. Shenandoah,

    This is a really quick recipe. It would make a great weekday meal. Leftovers are better than the first day since the flavors get a chance to marry.

    I am excited that you are trying the seitan. Which version are you making? I can't wait to hear how it turns out. If you have any questions let me know.


  5. I'm making the Steam Baked Seitan Cutlets with hint of Worcestershire. They're in the oven now after turning them over and adding another 1/2 cup of water. (I hope you meant 'turn over' and not 'turn around' in the recipe).

  6. Shenandoah,

    I actually meant to turn the pan around in case there is a hot spot in your oven. However, flipping the cutlets shouldn't be a problem. When they are finished baking if they are soft and not crispy you can either return the seitan to the oven to crisp, or recrisp them in a pan on top of the stove.


  7. Oh this looks so yummy. sounds like a good comfort food go to!

  8. Heather,

    This is a great dish, and really easy. It tastes even better the next day. The fresh sage makes the dish.



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