Cooking | Magazine

Recipes: Cannellinis to the rescue

Elevate the simple white beans with these two make-ahead dishes.

Turkish beans with pickled tomatoes (etli kuru fasulye).
Turkish beans with pickled tomatoes (etli kuru fasulye).Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

In all parts of the world, bean dishes are considered the perfect combination of economy and ease. White beans in particular are a delicious blank slate that soaks up other flavors. Turkey’s etli kuru fasulye relies on a bright topping of pickled tomatoes, fresh dill, and tart pomegranate molasses to brighten a stewed lamb shank. In our second recipe, we take out the guesswork with a go-to white bean dish that could be a side to roasted meats or the base of a fuller meal with sautéed greens and a fried egg.

Turkish Beans With Pickled Tomatoes (Etli Kuru Fasulye)

Makes 6 servings


The creamy texture of dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight, is best, but Great Northern beans work well, too. Pomegranate molasses adds a unique fruity sweetness; find it in the grocer’s international section or near the honey, maple syrup, and molasses. The beans can be served as is or with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a spoonful of whole-milk yogurt. We also love the bright contrast provided by pickled tomatoes.

Don’t forget to salt the soaking water — it tenderizes and seasons the beans. We like a ratio of 1½ tablespoons kosher salt to 3 quarts water.

The beans can be made up to two days ahead. Reheat over low, adding water for your desired consistency.

1 pound dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained

12- to 16-ounce lamb shank

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter

8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

4 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

14½-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

Kosher salt

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more to serve

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, plus more to serve

Ground black pepper


Whole-milk yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, and pickled tomatoes (see following recipe) to serve

Heat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle position. In a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over high heat, combine 5½ cups water, beans, lamb shank, onion, butter, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven. Stir in the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons salt. Return, uncovered, to the oven and bake until the beans are fully tender and creamy and the liquid is slightly thickened, another 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer the pot to a rack. Remove the lamb shank and set aside. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Let the beans sit for 20 minutes.

When cool, remove the lamb meat from the bone, discarding fat, gristle, and bone. Finely chop the meat and stir into the beans. Stir in the parsley, dill, and molasses. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with yogurt, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, dill. and pickled tomatoes.

Pickled Tomatoes

Makes 1½ cups

These pickled tomatoes are delicious with our Turkish beans but can also be used on sandwiches or in hearty soups. Be sure to seed the tomatoes. If you can’t find Aleppo pepper, substitute ancho chili powder or red pepper flakes.

3 plum tomatoes (12 ounces), cored, seeded, and diced

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill


1 teaspoon crushed Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon white sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium bowl, stir together all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

White beans with rosemary and thyme.
White beans with rosemary and thyme.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

White Beans With Rosemary and Thyme

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Cannellini beans simmered until creamy and tender with garlic and herbs can be used many ways. Plain, they make a delicious side dish to braises and roasts. Or, add them to a sauté of hearty greens, such as kale or chard. Dress them with a vinaigrette and toss with baby spinach or arugula and shaved fennel to make a salad. To turn them into a main dish, stir in crisped bacon or pancetta — or not, if you’re serving vegetarians — and top with fried or poached eggs. And consider saving the cooking liquid; aromatic with garlic and herbs and full-bodied from the beans' starch, it can be used as a soup broth.

Remember to soak your beans. Dried beans cook faster and more evenly if they’re soaked for 12 to 24 hours before simmering.

1 pound dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained

Kosher salt

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

8 medium garlic cloves, smashed

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Extra virgin olive oil or melted salted butter, to serve

In a large bowl, combine 2 quarts water, the beans, and 1 tablespoon salt, then stir to dissolve the salt. Let soak at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Drain.


In a large pot, combine the beans, 1 tablespoon salt, the onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and 5½ cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low. Cover partially and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the beans are creamy and tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Drain the beans in a colander, then remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil or melted butter.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.