In Italy Cranberry beans are known as borlotti and they are at the heart of the traditional pasta and bean soup or Pasta e Fagioli soup. An uncooked cranberry bean has red marks but when cooked turn a brown / white color. Cranberry beans are excellent when fresh and particularly suited for hearty soups given their chestnut like flavor and texture. As an irrelevant side note, I despised Pasta e Fagioli soup as a child, but now hold the dish close to my heart and stomach and recognize the soup as a classic Italian (and Italian American) dish.
Cranberry Beans are nutritional superstars, including a high fiber count (e.g., half a cup (113.4 grams) has 36% of the US Recommend Daily Allowance (RDA) of fiber. The same amount of beans also contains about 90 calories (and no fat), while half a cup of the beans offers 8 grams of protein, which is about 16% of the US RDA.
As we said, traditional Pasta e Fagioli soup is made with fresh cranberry beans but you may substitute with kidney beans.
Here’s a version of the recipethat’s slightly different from Mario Batali.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves
- ½ minced red onion
- ¼ cup of chopped parsley
- ¼ pound of coarsley chopped squash or zucchini
- 15 ounces of fresh cranberry beans (you can find fresh cranberry beans in the US during the Fall months)
- 4-5 cups of fresh water (you can use chicken or vegetable stock as well)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- Hot pepper flakes to taste
- ¼ pound of long pasta (such as linguine fine, broken into 2 inch pieces)
- Add the garlic, onion, and hot pepper flakes to a large pot along with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and begin heating the pot. Sautée the garlic and onion for a minute or so and add the chopped squash or zucchini and cook for 4-6 minutes. Add salt, water, and beans. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. After, the beans have become tender add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente. Add freshly ground pepper, parsley, and fresh extra virgin olive oil, as well as grated Grana before serving.
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