Borlotti Beans and Pasta Fagioli

Evocative names like Firetongue, Lingua di Fuoco, Centofiamme (100 flames), or Sanguino (bloody), grab my attention. These climbing beans are a classic Italian shelling bean. Wonderfully versatile in the kitchen, and they look great in the garden or allotment with their pods of vivid pinks and reds.

You can eat them fresh, or dried. at this time of year, I shell the ripe ones for freezing, and use the slightly under-ripe ones for eating fresh.

I said they were versatile, and I mean it, they are often described as a “meaty bean”, meaning they have substance. I cook them up and use them on Bruschettas or in pasta dishes with a fresh tomato sauce, on their own as a warm salad with a dressing of olive oil, lemon, garlic and fresh herbs, or in a risotto with some rosemary or parsley as flavouring.

When they are ripe they have the most beautiful mottled pink and red beans. Sadly the beautiful colouring of the beans is largely lost when they are cooked. But they still taste great.

Pasta Fagioli literally means pasta and beans. It is a traditional Italian dish made with Borlotti beans (or cannellini) and pasta. It’s a nutritious and hearty meal that can be easily added to and made into a soup. You can substitute almost any dried or canned bean, like Cannellini, Chick Peas, Haricot, for Borlotti beans.

Pasta Fagioli

Ingredients ~

  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, peeled and diced into small pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced into small pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp of chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 100g borlotti beans or similar, cooked until tender but not too soft, or a tin of haricot/cannellini beans, drained. See my notes on cooking fresh or frozen beans
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped,
  • 500 ml of vegetable stock
  • 100 g small pasta shapes, such as ditalini or rigati (short pasta)
  • 1 tbsp of chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Method ~

  • Fry the onion, celery, carrot, rosemary and garlic gently in the olive oil, until the onion is clear and cooked.
  • Add the tomatoes and stir, cook for a minute or two, until the tomatoes start to soften
  • Add the vegetable stock and the drained beans, and cook for 10 minutes, turn the heat to low and partially cover the pan.
  • Add the pasta, bring back to the boil, and cook for approx 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked to your liking, I prefer al dente.
  • Add the chopped parsley, check the seasonings, and if needed add some salt and pepper
  • Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Variations ~

  • Add some capers, olives or anchovies to create different flavourings.
  • For soup, increase the liquid content, it’s a great winter warmer!
  • Meat eaters can add some chopped bacon into the pan when frying up the onions and vegetables.

Gardening Notes ~

This years crop has been a little disappointing, they haven’t been their usual “heavy cropper”, but what with a very dry spring, a cool summer and a hot and dry early autumn, I’m not really surprised!

One comment

  • Just needed to confirm the name of the bean we grew (fire tongue; Borlotti I guess) and wanted to know how best to cook use them. Last year I saved and planted and grew them this year; successful. But didn’t know how to use: we always just cooked them, in their shell. Thanks for clearing this up!

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