I am not sure if Borlotti beans have been bad boys or villains, due to the number of aliases, or other names that they have, among which are Cranberry beans, French horticultural beans, Saluggia or Rosecoco beans. On first glance you may think they are a cross between Runner and Broad beans, but their colour soon shows their type due to the pods being flecked a reddy pink on yellow, whilst the beans (or seeds) are a stripey red. The borlotti bean (if puchased dry) should be soaked over night and it is suggested that the stripes fade, whilst others say the stripes are more apparent, this may be due to any additives when boiling such as herbs or salts, if boiling add a little salt afterwards to stop the beans from going tough.
The beans themselves have a sweet flavour with a smooth creamy texture. If growing your own so you may taste them fresh, there is no reason not to grow more, as they can be dried or left to dry in the pods and stored or fresh frozen enabling you to enjoy them at a later date.
If you wish to grow the beans, you can start them in the green house, but please don’t plant them outside until you are sure there will be no further frosts or cold winds, grow them with supports like wig wams as they are a pole or climbing bean.
Having seen them for the first time you may wonder how the Borlotti bean can be used, so to list a few of the uses, as they are used largely in Central and Northern Italy cooking for soups, Pannisa, Pasta E Fagioli, Minestrone, or bakes, dips and Ribolitta. Also as they have a sweet buttery taste they go well with bitter ingredients like chicory and other peppery products.
With all the varying suggestions for use I feel it would not be prudent of me to leave you without at least one or two recipes for you to test the flavour of Borlotti beans, so the first recipe is for Tuscan pasta bake, whilst the second is for a soup Pasta e Fagioli, if you cannot find Borlotti beans ask for Cannellini beans (you will see that this is one of the alternate names for these beans).
TUSCAN PASTA BAKE.
As you can tell by the name it is baked in the oven, so a suitable baking dish should be used, into which all the ingredients will be placed.
To make a serving for 4 people you will need :-
14 oz or a 400g can of beans, or a similar amount of (soaked) dry beans.
14 oz or 200g of canned tomatoes.
7oz or 200g of pasta twirls (or your choice of shapes).
2oz or 50g of black olives.
3 Sticks of celery (chopped)
1 teaspoon of mixed dry herbs.
1/4 bottle of red wine.
1/2 teaspoon of salt.
1 vegetable stock cube.
Add the beans, herbs, stock cube, olives, tomatoes and salt, together with the celery, and mix gently avoiding damaging the beans, then add the wine mixing gently, finally topping up with water so that it does not quite cover the mix. copver with aluminium foil and placing in a pre-heated oven at 190c or gas mark 5 and cook for 25 mins, take out the dish, stir the contents and place back in the oven for a further 20 mins, 5 mins before the end of the second cooking stage, remove the foil to give you that delicious golden brown on the top.
FRED’S Note, whilst the above recipe tends to be original you may want to omit say the olives or even add sausage or bacon (cut some of the salt if the bacon is salty), or even substitute a cream, curry or peppery sauce instead of the wine, these are some of the differences that can be made.
The next recipe is for soup, which is not the best of desciptions for a meal that has a little bit of wow factor!, but I leave you to decide.
Pasta e Fagioli.
This is a serving for 8 people and takes up to 4 hours to cook.
1 very large pan.
1 lb or 500g of Borlotti beans (soak for 4hours if using dried).
8 pealed medium sized potatoes cut into chunks.
2 crushed gloves of garlic.
3 tablespoons of tomato paste.
2 onions peeled and left whole.
1 small chilli.
2 medium sized carrots cut into chunks.
1 gallon of water or 5 ltrs.
10 ozs or 300g og thin egg fettuccini.
Grated parmesan cheese.
Red wine vinegar.
With the exception of the oil, vinegar, parmesan cheese and fettuccini, add all the ingredients to the pot covering with water and adding the lid, boiling for 3 to 4 hours, obviously some of the ingredients will break down or soften and it will look like a thick coffee, so at this stage it should be allowed to cool. When cool enough to work, remove around half of the beans and all of the other vegetables that are still whole and pulp them through a sieve or similar, then retun this back to the pot, now bring it to the boil gently, adding water if you feel the mix is too thick, add the fettuccini, stirring so none of the ingredients stick in the pan. Once the pasta is cooked, add the parmesan cheese. although you may have made too much, the mix will improve if stored in the refridgerator, serve the Fagioli with olive oil and the vinegar, I feel also that some people like to add a liitle more grated parmesan, at the table.
Whilst classed as a soup this can prove to be a meal in itself, and remember that it is an ideal filler/warmer for those cold wintery evenings, once again items like ham, bacon, sausages or suaces can be added to make a soup of your choice flavour.