Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Host of The Splendid Table
produced by Minnesota Public Radio and Tom Voegeli Productions,
distributed by Public Radio International

Fagoli all' Uccelletto e Insalata
From The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Copyright 1999 By Lynne Rossetto Kasper Permission by Scribner, New York

Outside, a wild October night of rain and wind; inside, a table before the fire and this Tuscan Mountain Supper---hot, plump beans flecked with tomato and herbs, and their perfect foil, a cool salad of tart escarole and red onion. I took a little of each on my fork and tasted pure heaven. This meal's secret lies in extremes---the salad must be prickly and tart, the beans luscious and slow-cooked in their tomato sauce meld all their seasonings. These are Tuscany's famous Beans in the Style of Wild Birds, as they served at the old coaching inn IL Casone, practically at the top of the Apennine Mountains in Lucca province.
Cook to Cook: The beans benefit from being made ahead. Cooked fresh cranberry beans are the first choice, followed by cooked dried American organic pinto beans. Even canned pinto, rinsed and drained, are good here.

Wine Suggestion: A simple Tuscan red like Monte Antico from Santa Lucia or a Montecarlo.

Serves 4; doubles easily


  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 tightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 cups cooked beans
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves
  • 1 to 2 cups reserved bean cooking liquid or water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salad of Tart Greens and Red Onion
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 canned whole tomatoes, with 1/4 cup of their liquid

1. Finely chop together the onion, parsley, and sage leaves. Heat the oil in a 10 to 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onion mixture until golden, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Stir in the garlic, cooking another minute. Blend in the tomatoes, their liquid, and the tomato paste. Saute 10 minutes to deepen the flavors.

2. Gently fold in the cooked beans and saute a few minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the liquid, taste for seasoning, and bring to a slow simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 30 minutes, checking for burning and adding a little more liquid if needed. The beans should absorb the other flavors, but not be falling apart. Serve hot with the salad. The beans and salad are eaten together.

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