Baked white beans with tomatoes

(Sheryl Julian/Globe Staff)
May 27, 2009

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Serves 8

These are not the traditional Boston baked beans, but rather white beans cooked with tomatoes and lots of herbs. Begin with dried Navy beans or French flageolet, which are pale green, and soak them overnight (the quick-soak method is also given here). Cook the beans in the oven or on top of the stove for a couple hours. When they're done, stir in a large spoonful of pesto. To make a meatier version, add a fresh pork or ham bone to the pot or 1/4 pound finely diced ham.

2 cups dried white beans or flageolets
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups canned imported whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
2 cloves garlic, halved
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 cups water
6 sprigs each fresh thyme and rosemary, tied together with string
1/4 cup pesto

1. In a bowl, combine the beans and plenty of water to cover them by several inches. Set aside overnight. Drain and rinse beans. Alternatively, in a large flameproof casserole, combine the beans and plenty of water to cover them. Bring to a boil, simmer 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the beans and rinse them with cold water.

2. Set the oven at 375 degrees if baking the beans.

3. In a large flameproof casserole, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.

4. Remove the casserole from the heat. Stir in the drained beans. Add the water and stir again. Put the herb bouquet on top. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven or turn the heat to very low. Simmer the beans for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until they are tender when tasted. With tongs, lift out the herbs. Let the beans sit for 10 minutes.

5. Taste the beans for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Add the pesto and stir thoroughly.

Sheryl Julian