White Bean Ragout
Another warming dish for midwinter, this white bean ragout is easy to make and very satisfying when the cold winds blow. It's quite versatile, too. I usually serve it as a side to a roast, but it can be served as a first course, as a hearty soup (see note following recipe), or as a sauce tossed with penne pasta and sprinkled with some shredded Parmeggiano Reggiano. You can even purée it and use it for a very interesting dip with chunks of crusty bread.
White Bean Ragout
1 cup dried white beans (cannellini, great Northern, flagelet, navy or yankee varieties)
1 leek, white parts only, minced
1 carrot, peeled, minced
1 rib celery, minced
6 cloves garic, minced
2 thin slices pancetta, minced
4 T fresh pork fat, chopped (optional)
2 T tomato paste
1/4 C fresh parsley, minced
2 T fresh sage, minced
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt, hot sauce to taste
Soak the beans overnight in water to cover. Drain and rinse them. Place in a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until just tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
Place some olive oil in a sauté pan and cook the leek, carrot, celery, pancetta, optional pork fat, vinegar and garlic about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat.
Combine the beans, the leek/carrot mixture, about a cup of the bean-cooking liquid, the tomato paste, the parsley and the sage in a casserole or heavy pot with a lid.
Bake about 40 minutes in a preheated 325º oven. Correct seasoning.
1. Make ahead. May be made ahead of time and reheated...in fact, the flavor may improve if made ahead of time.
2. Soup. To serve this as a soup, stir in a couple of peeled, seeded tomatoes, cut up, with their juice (or use canned whole tomatoes, cut up) just before baking, and increase the amount of bean-cooking liquid to 1-1/2 C.
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