Tallmadge’s White Cannellini Beans with Garlic and Basil

This is a favorite – of all my clients and friends. In fact, my clients lovingly call it “Tallmadge’s Beans.” I LOVE this dish, too.

It’s a traditional Italian dish which tastes  rich, and is oh so easy to make. After I’ve made and stored a batch, I’ll ladle a heap into a bowl and microwave for lunch, with a slice of whole-grain bread topped with smoked turkey, lean ham, or light cheese (or all three!) and some greens.  Slice a spicy chicken sausage – or shrimp –  into a bowl,  top with the beans, and pop in the microwave. Add a green salad and tart dressing and you’ve got a winning dinner. I usually double the recipe to have plenty during the week. Without meat, it will last more than a week refrigerated.

Over the years, I’ve changed the way I do the recipe. These days, I make it more soupy by adding more broth, and have discovered I love it really lemony, too.


Ingredients Makes 4 Servings
1/2 pound dried small white (cannellini) beans, or
24-ounces canned rinsed beans
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1-1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves (more or less
to taste)
1 quart defatted chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegans)
Salt to taste (if using fresh, dry beans)
12 ounces (3 medium) fresh or
canned tomatoes, peeled, and chopped
1 large handful of fresh basil
juice from 2 lemons (more or less, depending on how lemony you like it)
freshly ground pepper


If you’re using dried white beans

  • Soak the beans in one quart of water overnight or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse.
  • Add one quart chicken stock to the beans along with one clove of garlic and 1/2 onion. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1-1/2 hours or until the beans are almost tender. Add more stock to keep moist. Add salt to taste and finish cooking until beans are tender.

Continue with your cooked dried beans or start here if you’re using canned white beans

  • Heat oil in a large, heavy soup pot or casserole and sauté the remaining onion and garlic over low to medium heat for 10 or 15 minutes or until soft.
  • Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. If you’re using canned tomatoes, no more cooking is necessary. Add the beans with their cooking liquid and mix together.  If you used canned beans, rinse the beans then use enough stock to keep the beans moist while cooking.
  • At the end of the cooking time, add the fresh basil (it will get bitter if overcooked), fresh lemon juice, and freshly ground pepper. Mix together.
  • Divide into serving-size containers, refrigerator or freeze, and heat to serve.
Per Serving
calories 290
total fat 4.5g
saturated fat 0.5g
total carbohydrate 45g
dietary fiber 16g
protein 19g
Adapted from Mediterranean Light, by Martha Rose Shulman (Bantam Books, 1989).

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