Tuscan White Bean Stew

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

In our ongoing 2015 series of soups and stews, we wanted to revisit one we make regularly and love. We did this recipe a couple of years ago which was a riff on today’s Cook’s Illustrated stew. This recipe is found in THE Cookbook, as my brother John calls it – The Science of Good Cooking from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s chock full of just what it promises, cooking science! The 2013 version used Italian sausage as the meat flavoring and cabbage as the vegetable. Today’s version uses pancetta and kale. While I liked both of these spins on the stew, I think the perfect combo will be sausage and kale. We will report back!

Margaux says . . .

I love this stew, and was excited to make this variation! This stew is so hearty and delicious, I’ve made it with the sausage and cabbage several times. I agree with Aunt Suzy, though, that kale and sausage would be the perfect combo. I will definitely make it that way next time! I love serving this with a loaf of crusty sourdough and a green salad. Yum!


Table salt
1 pound dried cannelini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon EV olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large onion, medium dice
2 medium celery ribs, ½-inch dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with a garlic press
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale,  stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Black pepper to taste

Brining the beans: Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Alternatively if you’re in a hurry, bring the beans in the brining water to a boil. Turn off the heat and let stand for 1 hour.  For both methods, when done soaking, drain and rinse well.

Making the stew: Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Remove all racks except the bottom one.
Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), abut 45 minutes.
Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the prepared greens and tomatoes. Cover pot, return to oven, and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 20 to 30 minutes longer.

Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil. Alternatively serve with a nice crusty baguette.


Aunt Suzy says

The Swiss Chard has really been beautiful at the markets lately and it’s one of my favorite vegetables.  Really, I’m a sucker for any cooked green!  (This gorgeous bunch of Rainbow Chard is from Burning River Farm, Mill City Farmers’ Market.)  I discovered this really tasty vegetarian recipe from – big surprise! – Food & Wine, which I seem to be mentioning in every post lately.  This was another recipe that came out in my Facebook feed that screamed EASY!  And it is really easy and fast – great for a weeknight supper when you’re pressed for time.  We make this regularly and occasionally will add left-over roast chicken or sliced sausage (like andouille or chorizo) for a different spin.  A sangiovese was recommended to accompany this dish and, as usual, it’s a great match.  Margaux, what do you serve this with?  We usually have it with a salad and earthy whole grain bread of some sort.  I also like that there’s usually a little left over – makes for a great lunch.

Margaux says

I also love this!!  I’ve made is several times because it’s very tasty, easy on the budget, and literally takes me 20 minutes to throw together.  I made it again last night, and had to make it with light red kidney beans instead of the cannelini beans (which are just white kidney beans) because I forgot to buy them, and it was just as tasty, but not as pretty.  I usually serve it with a crusty bread, and last night we had it with a vinho verde because that’s what was already open, and it went well.  I make mine on the spicy side (1/2 tsp crushed red pepper), so the wine was a nice, crisp pairing to that.

Aunt Suzy says

A comment on using different beans – the original recipe said that you could use chickpeas or gigantes instead of the cannelini.  I think that any bean would be good, but the creamier the better, which is why chickpeas would be my least favorite option.  And I had to laugh when I was searching for kale recipes yesterday and saw this exact recipe except using kale!  Recently, a friend said she made this with broccoli instead of chard and loved it.  And I love the idea of serving this with a crisp white wine like Vinho Verde in the summer – really red wine is so much better when it’s cool out.  Bottom line for this stew . . . lots of options!

Swiss Chard and White Bean Stew

1-2 bunches swiss chard, depending on size (I have always just used one)

3-4 garlic cloves, sliced

3 tablespoons EV olive oil

2 small cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

2 small or one large can diced tomatoes

1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons fresh summer savory (optional)

Prepare the swiss chard by washing it, draining, then cutting out the stems and slicing or tearing the leaves into smaller pieces (maybe 2″ x 2″).  Discard the bottom parts of the stems that are thick and woody.  Slice the remainder of the stems into 1/2-inch pieces.

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven with the olive oil.  Bring to medium heat and add the sliced stems and garlic.  Saute until the stems become somewhat soft. 

Turn the heat up and add the chard.  Stir constantly until the chard begins to wilt.

Add the drained and rinsed white beans and the tomatoes with their juices.  You can to use fire roasted tomatoes for a slightly smokier taste.  Trader Joe’s has fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles which are delicious, but they are already hot, so don’t add the crushed chile pepper.  (We learned that from experience!!)  Stir in the crushed chile pepper and the summer savory, if using, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. That’s all there is to it, except for maybe adding some salt and pepper.

 Aunt Suzy’s Note on the summary savory:  this was not a part of the original recipe, but the grower we bought a summer savory plant from this year told us it is a perfect herb for bean dishes of any kind.  I liked the flavor it added to this dish.