Fagioli all’Uccelletto is the Italian name of a rich and hearty Tuscan recipe: White Beans in Tomato Sauce.
It’s made with cannellini beans, tomato passata, garlic, oil and sage leaves. These simple ingredients, cooked slowly together, create a warm, comforting and delicious dish.
A goodness that has its roots in the Tuscan cucina povera, just like Pappa al Pomodoro, Panzanella and Ribollita.
“All’Uccelletto” in Italian means “cooked in the manner of birds”. There are several hypotheses about the origin of this curious name, which we will reveal below.
Fagioli All’uccelletto is a side dish, perfect to go with meat dishes. Served with homemade bread or a tasty steaming polenta, this Tuscan white beans in tomato sauce become a delicious main course.
Cannellini beans are the key ingredient of this recipe. They are known for their high protein content, almost double that of cereals. They are therefore an important food for those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and are an excellent alternative to meat.
The preparation is very simple. The traditional rule is to use dried beans, soaked for hours and then cooked. But if you are really pressed for time, you can use canned beans. In this case, it takes about 40 minutes.
The secret to an excellent result, in addition to using the best quality products, is to cook over a gentle heat. The texture of the dish should remain moist but not brothy. The beans should not dry out or shrivel during cooking.
Try Fagioli all’Uccelletto Recipe! You will fall in love with these white beans cooked in tomato sauce!
How to Make Fagioli all’Uccelletto
- Prep Time: 12 H for dried cannellini beans or 5 Min for canned cannellini beans.
- Cook Time: 40 Min for dried cannellini beans or 10 Min for canned cannellini beans.
- Servings: 4
- 400 g (about 1 pound) of dried Cannellini beans or 800 g (1 3/4 pound) of canned Cannellini beans,
- 350 g (1 1/2 cups) of tomato passata. Have a look to our homemade tomato passata recipe
- 2 fresh garlic cloves
- 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- fine salt to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
Make sure you have a large bowl in which to soak the beans. Remember that they will double in volume as they rehydrate.
Then you need a large pot with high sides to boil the beans and a skimmer to remove the foam during cooking.
Traditionally we use a Terracotta pot to stew the cannellini beans with the seasonings and the tomato, as it retains the heat and cooks more evenly. This item is also very beautiful, decorates the kitchen and makes a nice gift. An Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is also suitable.
To serve Fagioli all Uccelletto, we recommend a set of Rustic Dishes, as in old Tuscan kitchens. Have a look at this beautiful set of small pots that will decorate your table and amaze your guests!
Step 1) – If you are using DRIED CANNELLINI BEANS: begin the preparation of the Fagioli all’uccelletto recipe by soaking the beans.
Leave them to soak in plenty of water for 8-12 hours. As the beans rehydrate, they double in volume, so use a large bowl.
At the end of the soaking time, rinse, drain, and cook the beans in plenty of boiling water for about 40 minutes. Drain the beans and set aside a few tablespoons of the cooking water.
If you are using CANNED CANNELLINI BEANS: drain the beans in a pasta strainer and rinse with fresh water. They are already cooked, so set them aside.
Step 2) – Heat the oil and add the peeled garlic cloves and sage leaves. Stir gently and sauté over low heat for a few minutes so that the oil takes on the flavors of the ingredients.
Then add the tomato passata and stir.
Step 3) – After 2-3 minutes, add the cannellini beans. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes if you used DRIED BEANS, 5-6 minutes if you used CANNED BEANS. Cook gently over low heat.
Step 4) – If necessary, add a ladle of hot water from the cooking beans (or just hot water) to make the preparation more moist and less dry. The beans should be tender and well cooked, but not flaky.
At the end of cooking, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. The consistency should not be too dry but with plenty of sauce, not runny but creamy.
Serve Fagioli all’Uccelletto hot with fresh bread or as a side dish for other recipes.
You can store these Italian white beans in tomato sauce in the refrigerator, sealed in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.
Fagioli all’Uccelletto: Some Variations
The main variations of this simple recipe concern the type of beans used.
As already mentioned, the authentic recipe requires the use of cannellini beans, but there are several local variations that prefer other types of beans, such as Schiaccioni di Pietrasanta, Lamon beans or Borlotti beans.
But it is not only the different types of beans that give rise to variations on the classic recipe.
Beans all’Uccelletto alla Butese
For example, there is the fagioli all’uccelletto alla Butese, characterized by the addition of crumbled Italian sausage. Typical of the province of Pisa.
Then there are the Fagioli Arrovellati, which, in addition to sage, include the addition of other herbs such as Mentuccia thyme, basil and marjoram.
Beans all’Uccelletto with Seafood
Another dish that you cannot miss is the one that is typical of the coastal areas, where they add mussels and other seafood to the ingredients.
Beans all’Uccelletto Without Tomatoes
Finally, there is Fagioli all’uccelletto “in bianco”, that is without tomatoes. A very easy and tasty recipe, in which the scent of sage and garlic is intense and predominant.
You can eat them hot or cold. They are always delicious!
Qualities and Uses of Cannellini Beans
Cannellini beans are one of the most popular white bean varieties. They are easily recognized by their white color, small size (compared to other varieties such as Bianchi di Spagna) and cylindrical appearance.
They are a typical ingredient in Italian cuisine for the preparation of soups, stews and minestrone. Cannellini beans can also be served on their own, as a side dish or as an appetizer.
With a mild flavor, cannellini beans are a good source of plant protein, although the carbohydrate content is predominant.
The fiber content is also high, and minerals are well distributed, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and a good amount of iron.
The best way to cook them is to simmer them in a pot.
Cannellini beans have a mild flavor and a floury core.
Once cooked, they can be combined with many ingredients: meat, fish or other vegetables. They are appreciated for their versatility: in salads, sautéed, or mashed to make a delicate puree.
Cannellini beans are used not only in many traditional recipes, such as Ribollita or Fagioli all’Uccelletto, but also in many modern recipes, especially vegetarian and vegan, due to their high protein content.
How to Make Beans Easier to Digest
If you have trouble digesting legumes, or if you want to make them more tender and shorten the cooking time, here’s a TIP.
Add a small piece of Kombu seaweed to the water in which the cannellini beans are soaked, as well as during cooking.
In addition to its countless properties, kombu seaweed is widely used in cooking legumes and preparing broths and soups.
It’s also consumed dried, flaked, powdered, and as a dietary supplement.
Adding half a teaspoon of baking soda to the water in which beans are cooked also makes the skin softer.
The Origin of the Name “Fagioli all’Uccelletto”
What makes the Fagioli all’Uccelletto recipe so special is not so much the type of beans, but the use of fresh sage leaves.
It seems that the name of the recipe comes from the use of sage!
“Fagioli all’Uccelletto” in Italian means “beans cooked in the manner of birds”.
There are two main theories about the origin of the name, and in both the sage is the protagonist.
According to Pellegrino Artusi, the name comes from the fact that the aromas used to prepare these Italian white beans in tomato sauce, especially sage, are the same used to make “uccelletti allo spiedo”, also a traditional Tuscan dish.
According to others, the name refers to the similarity of the taste of the beans, again given by the sage, which in ancient times was served as a side dish to main courses of meat or game.