Italian Beans in Tomato Sauce with Polenta

A satisfying vegetarian dish that pairs creamy beans, such as borlotti, with creamy polenta to create that all important complete protein.  Fennel bulb and pepper flakes deepen the flavors of the rich tomato sauce that brings the dish together. While easy to prepare, be warned that the tomato sauce cooks for two to three hours. The beans and tomato sauce, however, are cooked separately and can be held for a day or two before combining and serving over the polenta. The sauce and bean mixture also freeze beautifully.

Borlotti Beans with Polenta-1

Based on the recipe Borlotti Beans in Tomato Sauce with Creamy Polenta from Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington at Rancho Gordo

For more on Rancho Gordo see Rancho Gordo’s Senate Bean Soup

2 cups cooked beans (1/2 lb dried beans, soaked for 4-8 hours and cooked until tender, generally 1 to 2 hours)

Tomato Sauce
3 T butter, oil or a combination
½ medium onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 t chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 t dried
¼ t red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (preferably Muir Glen)
Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 cup dry polenta prepared according to package direction. Add grated parmesan cheese for extra creaminess.

In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan or Dutch oven heat the butter or oil over medium heat and add the vegetables (onion, fennel bulb and garlic), half of the oregano if using fresh, and the entire ½ t if using dried, red pepper flakes and the pinch of salt. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes before adding the diced tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to a soft simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 to 3 hours. Add the remaining oregano if using fresh. Add the cooked beans and cook over a medium-low flame until warmed through. Correct the seasoning, add the chopped fresh parsley and serve over polenta.

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