Cannellini beans are white beans (legumes) native to the Tuscany region of Italy. Known there as fagioli, these beans are included in traditional popular dishes such as pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans). A great source of fiber and protein, the large kidney-shaped cannellini bean is recommended as part of a low-glycemic diet. Cannellini are chock-full of nutrients, including iron, folate and magnesium.
Purchasing and Storage
Cannellini beans are available in most grocery aisles in canned form or in bags/bulk (in the same way other dried beans are sold). When deciding which form to purchase, consider the following:
- Select evenly colored, shiny beans.
- Store dried beans in an airtight container, such as a Mason jar, to keep them fresh.
- Before cooking dried beans, rinse them, pick them over (to remove nonedible debris) and then soak them overnight so they break down.
- Determine the dried beans you need by calculating the dried-to-cooked ratio as 1:2.5 cups.
- Note that while canned beans require less preparation time, they generally have a higher glycemic index than their dried counterparts. Canned are also more likely to be higher in sodium.
- Refrigerate canned beans after opening.
- As with all canned goods, do not use beans if the can is damaged or rusty.
Cannellini are incredibly versatile and can be used in cooking all year round. Substitute this type of bean in recipes that call for navy beans or great northern beans. Cannellini have a nutty flavor and are smooth—even creamy—in texture when cooked. All of the following uses require that the dried form of the bean has been prepared as described above.
- Take off the chill of a winter day by making chili or soup in the same way you would normally, but substitute cannellini for the beans you usually add.
- Purée the beans with olive oil, lemon, garlic and sea salt for a creamy dip with crudités, similar to hummus.
- When the weather warms up, add refrigerated (cooked) beans in chilled salads that call for kidney or garbanzo beans.