Archive | Tuscan Side Dishes RSS feed for this archive

Peperonata Rustica, a Rustic Peperonata

Peperonata, Stewed Peppers

Peperonata, Stewed Peppers

Peperonata is stewed peppers, and there are innumerable variations on the theme. This  one is from the Pianura della Versilia, the coastal plain north of Pisa, and is drawn from Mariù Salvatori Zuliani’s excellent book, “La Cucina di Versilia e Garfagnana.”

Like many Italian recipes it is long on text and short on quantities:

Take bell peppers of a variety of colors, seed them, and rib them. Thinly slice one or two onions, depending upon the number of peppers, and blanch, peel, seed, and crumble a couple of tomatoes. Mince and sauté a little bit of the onion in olive oil, and when it begins to brown add the remaining onion and the peppers. Cook covered for a few minutes over a medium flame, just long enough for the peppers and onion to wilt without browning. At this point remove the cover and cook, stirring gently, until the liquid evaporates. Next, add the crumbled tomatoes; when they have wilted but aren’t completely cooked the peperonata is ready: You’ll end up with a dish that’s somewhat cooked and somewhat raw, and which can be eaten hot, as a side dish, or spread cold over slices of toasted bread as a snack.


Fagiuoli all’Ucceletto, Classic Tuscan Stewed Beans

Fagioli all'Uccelletto With Sausages

Fagioli all’Uccelletto With Sausages

Artusi calls fagioli all’uccelletto, which are cannellini beans simmered in a light tomatoey sauce, fagioli a guisa d’uccellini,  beans as if they were birds, because the beans are seasoned with sage much the way Tuscans season roasted small birds.

It makes sense if you think about it, because the sage does impart a certain similarity of flavor (especially if you go easy on the tomato in the beans), and fagiuoli all’uccelletto are a common accompaniment to braised dishes or stews in the winter months.

If you add partially cooked Italian link sausages to the fagioli all’uccelleto and finish cooking them, you will instead have a perfect winter main course. In short, comfort food.

If you choose to serve your beans with sausages, you’ll want freshly made mild Italian sausages, or perhaps a mixture of mild and other kinds (e.g. garlic or red pepper). The important thing is that the sausages not be so strong they overpower the beans. Depending upon the size of the sausages and the appetites of your diners, figure two or more sausages per person.

  • 1 pound (500 g) dried canellini (white beans), soaked for 3 hours
  • 1/4 cup (50 ml) olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 7-8 leaves of fresh sage
  • 1-2 peeled fresh plum tomatoes or a small can of tomatoes
  • Boiling water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 Italian link sausages (optional)

Begin by boiling the beans until 3/4 done in lightly salted water. This will take about an hour, though you should begin checking them after a half hour. You don’t want them to go soft on you.

If you are including sausages, prick their skins lightly with a fork and simmer them in boiling water to cover for 15 minutes to render out some of the fat. Drain them and keep them warm.

Once the beans are 3/4 done, heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a heavy bottomed clay pot or dutch oven. When the oil’s hot, add the garlic and the sage (not more than seven or eight leaves – too much sage will make the beans bitter). Cook until the sage crackles and the garlic is lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, then add the beans and bean broth to cover. Season the beans with salt and pepper, add the sausages, and simmer everything until the beans are quite soft, stirring occasionally to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pan and adding bean broth as necessary to keep the pot from drying out.

Serves four, and you will want a tossed green salad and crusty bread to go with it. The wine? A light, zesty Chianti d’Annata od Chianti Classico D’Annata, the vintage wine.