tuna & beans…and why you should never be a slave to a recipe

Tuna and Beans, or tonno e fagioli, as it is actually called in its hometown, Italy, is a delicious and filling salad of exactly what you’d think based on the name: tuna and beans (and red onion, salt, pepper, and olive oil).

There’s an excellent Italian cookbook called The Maccioni Family Cookbook by Egi Maccioni that has a wonderful recipe for tonno e fagioli; you start with dry cannellini (white) beans and cook them in stock with garlic and sage for a couple of hours. Then you drain the beans, add the tuna and thinly sliced red onion. You drizzle it with olive oil and finish it with salt and pepper, tossing it to coat. If I had rolled out of bed this morning knowing that’s what I was planning for lunch, I would’ve totally followed that recipe. But I didn’t.

Instead, I used canned beans (totally fine in most dishes to substitute). And, oops, they weren’t cannellini. I only had chickpeas. And… I also didn’t have a red onion; I only had a white onion. To get the sage and garlic, I threw in a dash of dried sage into the bowl and a clove of minced garlic. The message here is this: unless you’re baking, you needn’t follow a recipe exactly. You can play with the ingredients (to a degree) and you can play with measurements (to a degree). Sometimes an experiment flops, but often, such as today’s lunch, you get good results. What I liked about today’s experiment is that there was no heat or stove involved (perfect for my apartment with no air conditioning!). I just threw the ingredients in a bowl and mixed it together!  Even better: the entire meal took about 7 minutes. Easy, breezy (beautiful, covergirl)!

The ingredients. So Simple.
The ingredients. So Simple.

Obviously the dish wasn’t identical, but I didn’t derail from the traditional ingredients all that much. The ingredients I substituted had similar flavors, so I ended up with a similar dish: briny tuna with creamy beans and tangy onions.

This is a FILLING salad (especially for lunch–I had only ever had it for dinner before), so the only appropriate side was a small green salad, which was really just some lettuce and tomatoes, seasoned with a dash of salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Here’s the plate:

An unplanned but delicious lunch!
An unplanned but delicious lunch!

Fatty fishes, like tuna, help lower triglycerides, but you won’t be thinking about that while you enjoy this lovely dish.

Bon Appetito!



PS: Here’s a recipe, but remember it should really only be a guide!

To serve 2:

  • 1 15oz can white beans
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • pinch of dried sage
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix it together, taste for seasoning, adjust, and serve! Go light on the olive oil at first, you don’t want it to be oily, just enough to coat it well.

PPS: I recently made this again–and I had the right ingredients! Here’ what it looks like with cannelinni beans and red onion. (I still skipped cooking beans from scratch and used canned instead!)



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