Slightly kidney-shaped with squarish ends, cannellini beans are from Italy and are creamy white in colour. When cooked, they have a fluffy texture and a slightly nutty, mild flavour.
All year round.
Choose the best
For convenience, choose canned, as the preparation is minimal. For more flavour and texture, however, dried cannellini beans are the better choice.
Canned beans just need to be drained and rinsed, then they're ready to use.
For dried beans, soak them in lots of cold water for a minimum of 5 hours (they'll expand, so make sure your bowl is big). Drain and rinse, then put them in a large pan, cover with 5cm of cold water, bring to the boil, scoop off any foam, then boil for a further 10 minutes. Scoop the foam off again, then add just a little salt (too much salt before they're cooked will harden the skin, as will anything acidic like lemon juice or tomatoes), and simmer gently with the pan lid half on for 1 to 1½ hours, until tender. Keep an eye on the water level, and add more if necessary.
Dried cannellini beans will keep for a year in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Add to vegetable soups, including the classic Italian minestrone; mix with tinned tuna, French beans, red onion, a little grated parmesan and dress with olive oil and lemon juice for a storecupboard salad; or stew with sage, garlic and tomatoes for a winter casserole.
Try cannellini beans smashed on toast in a cannellini bean tartine, slow-cooked with rosemary, and confit pork belly with cannellini beans, or simply blended to make a pleasing hummus-like texture in a smashed bean dip recipe.
Try haricot bean or adzuki bean.