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TASTE / Recipe: Italian Beans and Polenta

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Fagioli all'Italiana is one of our favourite year-round recipes but it is particularly good with polenta in Winter. It is perfect and more typically made with Borlotti Beans, which should be soaked overnight but it also works well with tinned cannellini as a more spontaneous option. The quantities of each ingredient can be adapted easily according to your tastes and preferences.


Serves 4

500g beans

250ml tomato sauce (or 2/3 fresh tomatoes squashed for a more subtle flavour)

A few cloves of garlic, squashed with side of knife.

A bunch of fresh herbs (rosemary, bay, sage and thyme)

Extra virgin olive oil

Handful of chopped onion

Salt and pepper (to season after cooking)


1. Make up the sauce by frying the onion in olive oil until soft, I used spring onion here as that was what arrived delightfully in our weekly box from Steepholding. Add the garlic and herbs and continue on a low heat to flavour the oil.

2. Add the tomatoes and simmer/soften gently.

3. If using dried beans soak overnight in clean cold water then drain and rinse before cooking. Add just enough fresh water to cover them and add all to the sauce mix and bring to the boil. Don't add salt yet as this can harden the skin. Simmer for 40 mins or until beans are soft, removing any froth from the surface as you go.

4. If adding tinned or fresh beans add directly to the sauce and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes.

5. Meanwhile prepare the polenta!


4 parts liquid to 1 part polenta, to serve 4 you need about 250g of polenta and one litre of water.

Stefano makes his basic polenta simply with salted water, but it can also be made with stock, milk or cream or a mix of.


1. Bring the water to boil then add plenty of salt and set to simmer.

2. Gently pour in the polenta whisking as you go.

3. Reduce heat to medium, then lower once it starts to spit and pop

4. Switch to a wooden spoon, stay nearby and stir well every minute or so

5. Your polenta will be ready in around 25 minutes

6. Stir in some Parmigiana, if using. I'm making a vegan version so am trying it out with a little cashew parmesan from Bath Culture House.

Serve together.

Whenever we make this, I prepare double and use the beans as a base for a Ribollita soup (perfect this week as the veg box also contained a Savoy cabbage) and set the polenta in a rectangular dish to slice, bake and top with something delicious. like mushrooms, later in the week.

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