White beans are the winner! If there were a contest to see what type of food can taste good in pasta AND be healthy for you…ding, ding, ding—white beans, or as Italians call them Fagioli Bianchi, win! In most Italian households these beans are used in a variety of ways, differing by region. They are grown throughout Italy from Sicily in the South to Piedmont and Veneto in the north.
So what makes this small sort-of round object such a super star on the health front? Well, to start off beans contain a load of fiber that is said to be preventative of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. Ok, that is a plus. But these little gems also are the champions of protein as well. Why champions? Beans have more protein than any other veggie and, believe it or not, they can rival chicken or meat in protein content. Move out of the way meat!
Let’s take a quick look at the beans of Italy: Tuscany is famous for bean production, especially its cannellini (white kidney beans), and they are usually the most popular beans. They are simply referred to as fagioli. Other Tuscan white beans include soranini, toscanello, corona and schiaccioni. Many Italian cooks will substitute one bean for another but be aware that each kind has its own individual shape and texture to a dish.
If this Sunday Pasta could talk it would say, “All hail to the white bean!” Dry or canned, they hold quite a bit of nutritional value. An apology goes out to other veggies, this one seems to always be the frontrunner in tasting good and being good for you. So we bow to this small bit of wholesomeness and let the recipe do the talking and you the tasting.
Check out our recipe for Penne con Fagioli Bianchi and our wine pairings for the dish.
Donna Picciocchi, Editor