Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew
We prefer the creamier texture of beans soaked overnight for this recipe. If you're short on time, quick-soak them: Place the rinsed beans in a large heat-resistant bowl. Bring 2 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Pour the water over the beans and let them sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans well before proceeding with step 2. If pancetta is unavailable, substitute 4 ounces of bacon (about 4 slices). For a more substantial dish, serve the stew over toasted bread.
1 pound dried cannellini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)
1 large onion , chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery ribs , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 medium carrots , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves , peeled and crushed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale or collard greens (about 1 pound), stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups loosely packed)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Ground black pepper
8 slices country white bread , each 1 1/4 inches thick, broiled until golden brown on both sides and rubbed with garlic clove (optional)
See Illustrations Below: Keys to Tender, Flavorful Beans
1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Remove pot from oven and stir in greens and tomatoes. Return pot to oven and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
4. Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.
Step-by-Step: Keys to Tender, Flavorful Beans
Soaking the beans in salt water overnight helps them cook up creamy, with tender skins.
2. LOW-TEMPERATURE OVEN
Cooking the beans at a near-simmer in a 250-degree oven leads to fewer exploded beans in the finished stew.
3. WAIT TO ADD TOMATOES
The acid in tomatoes can interfere with the beans’ tender texture. Add them toward the end of cooking, after the beans have already softened.
Step-by-Step: Simmer Down
Simmered on stovetop
Near-simmered in oven