Friday, March 6, 2009

Borlotti Beans with Woody Herbs for Tyler Florence Fridays

Tyler Florence knows beans, (or at least how to make them taste really good), but I do have a bone to pick with him. I have had this recipe for Borlotti Beans with Woody Herbs (from Tyler's Ultimate page 196), tagged to make for ages. I think mostly because of the name and the fact that while I love my beans, I was not at all familiar with borlotti beans. The trouble became finding this elusive Italian bean, I searched and searched, in Hawaii, in Portland and no one seemed to have them or know what they were. Finally in the gourmet off-shoot of a local grocery store here, after searching the shelves to no avail, I asked if the clerk had heard of them and if they ever carried them and she led me over to some small cans marked "brown beans", turning them around to reveal in Italian "Fagioli Borlotti" on the opposite side.

They were not cheap, so I bought two small cans and carried my treasure home to make a half recipe of the beans. They were outstanding, (details below), but with the cost of the imported borlotti beans I knew it would not be a dish I would be making in mass quantities.

Cut to yesterday and a trip to Whole Foods, where I was perusing the bean aisle, and saw a big bag of Bob's Red Mill Cranberry Beans. I picked them up, thinking they would be fun to cook with and read the label which states: "Much sweeter and more delicate in taste than common pintos or kidney beans, these beautiful Cranberry Beans are popular in Italian cuisine and often known as "borlotti" beans." Tyler!!!!! Could you maybe have mentioned that borlotti beans and cranberry beans are the same thing??!!! I mean I would expect this kind of thing from Mario Batali, but you, Tyler, are supposed to be a man of the people, an All-American guy and you couldn't add one sentence about the aliases that borlotti beans use and save me months of looking for them?!  In fact, after doing a bit of research on the net, it even seems that a good portion of the "borlotti" beans eaten in Italy, are now imported from the United States and are cranberry beans!  Tyler is darn lucky that I really liked this recipe! 

What Tyler does say about the beans: "Tuscan-style borlotti beans are nothing more than peasant food, refined for high art. This simple dish can be taken in so many different directions: served with chunks of fresh sausage as a hearty soup, as a side dish with steak or roasted chicken, or thinned with a couple of cups of vegetable stock for a hearty vegetarian soup. The Old World process takes a few hours but I have cut the time by fortifying canned beans with carrot, celery, onion and sage."

Borlotti Beans with Woody Herbs
Tyler's Ultimate, Tyler Florence
(Serves 4-6)

1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
1 celery stock
3 garlic cloves
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh sage sprigs
1 small fresh rosemary sprig
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cans (28 ounces each) borlotti beans
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken broth
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor and pulse to chop fine.  Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the herbs and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the finely chopped vegetables and red pepper flakes and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, bay leaves, broth, and remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until the beans are flavorful. Taste for salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves before serving the beans.

 Delicious! I loved these beans, they are so flavorful, homey and filling. I used some olive oil for sauteing the herbs and veggies (about 2 Tbsp), but didn't add the extra 1/2 cup the recipe called for, I just added a bit more broth to cut some of the calories. I also found that my celery wasn't good, so I added extra carrots, (why my beans appear more "yellow" than the ones in Tyler's picture I think), and both stores I tried were out of fresh thyme, so I used some dried I had on hand, but otherwise I made this recipe as written. I crisped some herbs in a pan with a bit of olive oil to garnish the top, which was a nice touch. I served my beans with some green salad and sliced flank steak, but I found myself ignoring the steak and getting another helping of the beans, they were so good. Pureeing the vegetables and cooking them with the beans makes the canned beans taste like they have been simmering on the stove for hours. I will definitely make this recipe again, both with my new-found borlotti / cranberry beans and also trying it with other types of beans. This is a new favorite and a keeper recipe for me.

You can check what recipes our other TFF participants made and what they thought of them at the TFF site here.


  1. I find that there are different aliases for many ingredients out there. These do look and sound good!

  2. This looks fantastic Debbie. I have never used those beans before. I should try. I have a soup for you Sunday, Im working on getting it up by then..

  3. I have been seeing Borlotti Bean recipes popping up alot lately...yours is the first post I've read that says they are Cranberry Beans!! Thanks Deb..I've been thinking about trying them and this helps!!! Your dish looks fabulous, btw. :)

  4. Bean aliases will be the death of me. I now write all the names that I come across on the mason jar lids of each bean. It's messy, but it is the only way I can keep track!
    I am so happy that you loved these so much, I will definitely try them soon.

  5. I wish beans keep their gorgeous colors. Just think how much fun it would be to make this dish with cream and magenta beans!

    I'm going to put this recipe on my TODO list...a must try!

  6. I am so sorry about your wild goose chase! For some reasons beans very often have multiple names and I'm always confused as to which is which. Even cranberry beans are hard to find (I've only seen them in specialty-ish stores). I'm glad the hunt ended up in a good dish though.

  7. What a colorful dish. Nice job!

  8. Looks great - and I remember reading somewhere that borlotti and cranberry are the same thing. But I agree, Tyler should have mentioned that!

    I made your refried beans a few nights ago - they were really good.

  9. Shame on Tyler! They do look really delicious' I like the pureed vegetables. I will have to give this one a try.

  10. I have this one bookmarked too! Thanks for the heads up on cranberry beans!

  11. sorry you had to go on a wild chase but now we all know. shame on tyler, he should stop by and apologize. lol :)

  12. This almost tempts me to see if I like beans yet. I suppose since I now know they are cranberry beans (thanks for that, btw) I could probably pick some up cheap and try it.

  13. I am so excited to read about your adventure with the barlotti bean. I was at a local store recently and needed to buy Pinto beans. I didn't read the label for some reason and later found that I had accidently purchased Romano beans. They look so similar to Pinto ... so i decided to look in my handy ingredient book and couldn't find romano beans listed but there was a picture of the barlotti beans which looked identical. Anyways, I didn't have any recipes for either of these beans so I was puzzled. Soon after this I received my Cooking Light magazine which had a section on old time beans regaining popularity again and there was a recipe for barlotti beans. There it was again, and there was no mention of any substitute beans or different names for the barlotti bean. I had no idea what to do with my beans. Anyways, at this point I didn't have the internet but my husband and I finally got a new computer and decided to get the internet so I finally did a search for the Romano bean and found that the Cranberry, barlotti, and romano bean are all the same! Then I found your recipe and was amused by your story. I am absolutely going to make this soup now. It looks so good. Thankyou for the recipe and story.
    -Melissa in Alaska


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