Cannellini beans are a variety of white beans popular in Central and Southern Italy, particularly in Tuscany. Other names for the bean include white kidney bean and fazolia bean. They are similar to white navy beans or haricots, as they are known in Britain. These large white beans are often mistaken for great northern beans, as the two are so alike in appearance.
Before cooking, cannellini beans must be thoroughly rinsed. When cooked, the cannellini bean is fluffy and creamy. They are typically known for their smooth texture and nutty flavor. In recipes that call for the beans, substitutions can be made with great northern or white navy beans.
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In Tuscany, the beans are often eaten dried instead of cooked. In other parts of Italy, the beans are a popular accompaniment to tuna and pasta dishes containing poultry. In the United States, vegetarians often utilize the hearty beans as a fish or chicken substitute. They can be found throughout America and Britain in minestrone soups and various bean salads.
Cannellini beans are available in supermarkets in both dried and canned form. They can be purchased year round in most parts of the world. They should be evenly colored and shiny, with a slight off-white color. As with most other beans, they should be stored in an airtight glass container to preserve them.
An excellent source of iron, magnesium, and folate, a single serving of cannellini beans provides more than 20 percent of the recommended daily values of these nutrients. They are also a good source of protein, providing more than 15 grams per serving. Other nutritional benefits include their low fat content and calorie count. Each serving contains only 225 calories and less than one gram of fat.
To prepare cannellini beans, they must be rinsed and soaked overnight. They can be cooked in a pressure cooker for 15-20 minutes, or boiled on the stove top for 2-3 hours. One cup of dried beans yields approximately three cups of cooked beans. After initial preparation, they can be added to soups and stews, served seasoned with salt and pepper, or pureed and used as a spread on crackers and sandwiches. They can also be used to make a white bean chili.
Cooked cannellini beans should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator to prevent dehydration. If not used within 3-4 days, the beans can be frozen for later use. The dried beans have a very long shelf life, so it isn’t necessary to cook more than can be used in a few days.