Fagioli e Salsiccie alla Toscana: Pork and Beans

fagiole e salsicce

“I eat my candy with pork and beans.
Excuse my manners if I make a scene.”

Pork and Beans, by Weezer

I could begin this post with a rose-tinted anecdote about how, during the run-up to our wedding in Italy, as Amy and I were lingering romantically over a typically rustic Tuscan dinner one warm June evening against the background of a bucolic, rolling landscape with honey-colored buildings dotted sparingly among neat rows of vines and olives — our eyes locked together over a tablescape of starched cloth, antique silver and leaded crystal — the air, heavy with the scent of lavender and the hum of cicadas, seemed to stir momentarily, as if a gust of breeze from we knew not where had suddenly, and unintentionally, loosed itself, darkening our moods and furrowing our brows with its unwelcome interruption.

I could conclude such an anecdote in lyrical fashion thus: as the sun’s dipping parabola cast its final, limpid rays upon the radiant skin of my betrothed’s temples, she recoiled in anguish, reeling like a punch-drunk prize-fighter, at the rancid bouquet now squalling through her nostrils.

I could also proceed with a lengthy explanation of why it is that fagioli e salsiccie is the quintessential Tuscan peasant dish, having sustained generations in that part of Italy, and how it sits proudly among the best of pan-European cucina povera alongside fabada and ollo podrida.

Instead, I could just as easily explain that during said nuptials we enjoyed many of the delicious bean dishes for which Tuscany is famous and, consequently, experienced the oh-so familiar sensation of, ahem, flatulence.

These days many people are aware of the wonders of Tuscan cuisine; the saltless bread, the magnificent steaks, the peppery, fruity olive oil, the tangy Pecorino, the bread and tomato soups, as well as the widespread use of beans that has earned Tuscans the moniker “mangiafagioli” or bean-eaters. What still mystifies most people though, is if beans always give us wretched and disgusting gas, why do we continue eating them?

fagiole e salsicce

Before you start clicking away, tut-tutting about the sheer childishness… the puerile subject matter… they should know better, etc., you might consider the anthropological significance of the humble bean. Not only are beans among the world’s super foods, being packed with protein (containing more than twice the protein of most meats), fiber, and complex carbohydrates, the simple act of growing them fixes nitrogen to poor soils enabling land to remain fertile without requiring artificial fertilizers (meaning they are not just good for you, they are also good the Earth), but, in addition to being nutritionally complete, beans are easy to grow, and, as a result, have been (pun intended) essential to human societies since way before bread was even conceived of. Thus, the histories of the bean, the fart, and the very survival of humanity are inextricably connected.

Not that our survival this past weekend was predicated on eating beans, but as we struggled back up to our fourth floor walk-up apartment wet and cold from chilly April showers, it certainly felt that way for a few moments. The idea of the silken texture of perfectly cooked cannellini beans bathed lovingly in a tomato, garlic and bay-scented broth, and complemented by fennel or hot pepper-spiked pork sausage hung like an apparition in front of us as we stuffed our shoes with newspaper and festooned every available hanging place with damp clothes.

Sadly, we hadn’t had the foresight to soak our dried beans overnight (we only had four hours to soak them), so we tried the oft-mooted, but untested, option of using the pressure cooker to make amends. Various online sources suggested pressure-cooking them for anything between 12 and 25 minutes, neither of which we found to be nearly enough. After three abortive de-pressurizations, and a total of around 40 minutes cooking, the beans had achieved the smooth, toothsome texture we were looking for. Having browned the sausages in the pot before adding the beans, onion, garlic, bay, vegetable stock and tomato paste, all they required was an additional five minutes simmering among the beans for the dish to be ready.

Settling into our meal, we were astounded by the restorative qualities of simple pork and beans, washing the warming combo down with something red and Portuguese and in the $8 range. The following morning, we were similarly astounded by the metabolic reaction of human intestines and beans. Happily, our marriage, having begun with flatulence, and now securely founded on a mutual understanding of the universality of these kinds of things, was able to accommodate such seismic eruptions. Our day proceeded with a long walk in the park, having left our apartment, windows open, to air out.

Fagioli e Salsiccie alla Toscana: Tuscan-style Beans and Sausage (serves 2-4)


  • 1lb (1/2kilo) dry cannellini beans (navy beans would also be okay)
  • 1lb (1/2 kilo) Italian-style pork sausages, hot or sweet(with fennel)
  • 1 onion, sliced coarsely
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large sprig fresh sage
  • 2-3 tbsp tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 pints (1liter) vegetable or chicken stock
  • Optional: 1 parmigiano-reggiano cheese rind

Bear in mind that we used a pressure cooker and only soaked the beans for 4 hours, so if you soaked your beans overnight as instructed on the package, you could just as easily cook them for 20 minutes or so in a regular pot.

  1. Brown your sausages well on all sides in olive oil in the bottom of your pressure-cooker.
  2. Remove to a plate, add onions and allow to sweat for a couple of minutes
  3. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Make a hot spot and gently fry the tomato paste until lightly caramelize
  5. Add beans, bay leaf, cheese rind and enough stock to cover the beans by about an inch.
  6. Do not add any salt at this stage or beans will be tough.
  7. Stir well and attach lid of pressure-cooker.
  8. Once up to pressure, cook for around 30 minutes.
  9. De-pressurize and test your beans. Take a view on how they’re doing. They may need a bit longer, but bear in mind the sausages are only part-cooked, so you’ll need to cook them together with beans for at least another 5-8 minutes anyway.
  10. If you’re happy with them, remove cheese rind and bay leaf, and add sausages.
  11. Cook for 5-8 minutes.
  12. Taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
  13. Serve in bowls garnished with sausages and bread for wiping at the end.
  14. Enjoy while making plans to improve your home’s ventilatation.

22 thoughts on “Fagioli e Salsiccie alla Toscana: Pork and Beans

  1. This has got to be the most romantic prose I’ve ever read that contains the word, “flatulence.” 🙂

    I firmly believe a marriage that has thus far withstood those seismic eruptions will be a happy one that lasts a lifetime. Cheers to you both, pork, and beans. (clink)

  2. You are too hysterical. I agree with Leela…you never really see the world flatulence used in such a descriptive and beautiful way. But you definitely pulled it off!

  3. HAHAHAHAHAHA! I was reading all of that lyrical stuff and thought, “They’re eating beans. Is someone gonna blow a big fart? They’re so not going to go there…YES THEY DID!” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Yes, I admit I have the mentality of an 8 year old.

    Musical fruit or not, this does look delicious. Cannellini are my second favorite bean. I love sausage. This looks easy and tasty very comforting on a cold, crappy day like this. What happened to that nice spring we were having last week?

  4. Too, too funny! Did you just get married this month? Congrats!!

    And thanks for the reminder about the importance of legumes to soil management and sustainable agriculture. I just posted a bit of a rant on the same subject.

  5. @Julia – sadly not. it was in June 2007. and it feels like a lifetime ago. boo-hoo.
    @Rachel/Deana/Joanne/Leela – so glad to see that our readers share our infantile humor! I was worried this one would go down like the proverbial fart in the car…

  6. Anyone who avoids good food because they’re afraid of a little gastric disturbance isn’t truly living. If my fiancé and I couldn’t laugh at each other’s *ahem* “emissions”, we’d be in big trouble. He loves my cooking and wouldn’t have me change it even if it meant no flatulence from here on out. Just one of the effects of a healthy fiber-rich diet! 🙂

  7. Wait, blog readers with infantile senses of humor?!? I must have stumbled into some alternate internet.

    As any 5-year-old will happily tell you, farts are funny because they come out of your ass.

    1. @Karen – thanks for stopping by! We miss you guys! Summer’s here soon so we’ll definitely see you then, but we probably won’t be wanting to eat sausage and beans when it’s 90F!

      @Peter – you’re dead right. And, as any adult will tell you, you don’t need to be a 5 year old to find things that come out of your ass funny!

      @Joan – we are lovable rogues, but, for some reason we can’t seem to pin-point, not everyone loves us.

  8. Hilarious post! And with a meal looking like that, I will put up with the after effects.

    (Beano should have sponsored this post! 😉 )

  9. I thought it was “beans, beans, good for the heart, the more you eat, the more you fart!”.

    I just made a smoked pork shank and dried beans, it was so delicious, but strange to enjoy it on a 90 degree day!
    I will save the post for winter so no one scolds me!

  10. I’m reminded of that scene from “Blazing Saddles”….you know the one. I just received my first order from Rancho Gordo and am excited to learn the ways of the bean. This hilarious post is fresh incentive to spend some time getting to know beans a little better, thanks for the added propulsion. – S

  11. @Lori Lynn – Amy’s got plenty of ammunition if she ever wanted to get her own back on me.
    @Stacey – “… the more you fart, the better you feel so let’s have beans with every meal!” great minds think alike!
    @OuiChef – i do know that scene – very well – and had it in mind as I was writing this. I feel like we tapped into a deep vein of interest about farts here, causing (pun intended) an outpouring of aromatic comments!

  12. I love beans, all kinds but especially baked beans. What a beautiful picture you painted about a simple and common food product often relegated to being a summertime, bbq side-dish. Whatever internal and external turmoil they may cause, beans always have a place in my heart.

  13. It sure took Jonny a lot of words to say “Amy smelled a fart.”

    I love pork and beans in any of its iterations, and this one is absolutely gorgeous.

    1. @Dank – great question! Cheese rinds – essentially the waxy heel of a wedge of parmigiano/pecorino/asiago/any other hard, sharp cheese – contains a lot of flavor and when used in soups or stews that wonderful sharp, salty tang that made the cheese so delicious steeps into the broth. It’s a classic cucina povera (poor man’s food) tactic of letting nothing go to waste. Store them in a bag in your freezer throughout the year and pull them out when you’re making a batch of minestone or pork and beans. Interestingly, and for the same reasons, Italians also keep the tough bone ends from prosciutto too. It makes a great lentil soup, not to mention an amazing ham broth!

Like this post? Hate this post? Let us know!