White beans are so versatile. We usually have several cans ready to go and at least a pound or two of dried beans in the pantry.
This is a simple baked bean dish, with the beans first cooked in simmering water and then baked in a tomato sauce, flavored with bacon and sage, sweetened with honey, and spiced up with some chile flakes.
You could also use pancetta in place of the bacon, or rosemary instead of sage. If you swap out molasses for the honey you’ll have something a lot closer to Boston baked beans.
I learned a useful bit of cooking information recently from reading Shirley Corriher’s CookWise,
and that is that both sugar and calcium will keep beans from softening. Which is why if you are cooking with hard water, you may find your beans taking a lot longer than you might expect to cook to tenderness.
Molasses and brown sugar contain calcium which is why you can cook a pot of baked beans with molasses all day and the beans still retain their shape.
Sugar naturally occurs in tomatoes and in onions, so once the beans go in the sauce in the following recipe, they will take a long time to soften if they aren’t already cooked.
- 1 pound dry cannellini, borlotti or Great Northern beans
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 pound bacon or pancetta, roughly chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced (can sub fresh rosemary)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chile flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
- 2 cups beef or chicken stock (use gluten-free stock for gluten-free version)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar