One of my favorite types of cuisines is rustic Italian cooking, and these Livornese Stewed Beans are a perfect example. A handful of simple ingredients like onions, carrots, garlic, fresh herbs, and whole peeled canned tomatoes are cooked down until sweet and jammy; cannellini beans are later added to the mix and stewed until the stew is rich, almost creamy, and unbelievably flavorful.
This recipe will have your kitchen smelling like an Italian restaurant and is guaranteed to become a new favorite. The texture is jammy, rich, and thick, perfect for cold winter nights. And the flavor is everything you love about homey Italian cooking with a sweet-tangy tomato flavor dotted with lots of herbaceous notes.
If you love the sound of pantry-friendly Italian meals, be sure to check out my 10-ingredient Lentil Bolognese and my Italian White Bean and Pasta Stew! And if you have my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook, there’s a great easy recipe for Ribollita, which is a pantry-friendly Tuscan bread soup.
Watch: How to make Livornese Stewed Beans!
What are Livornese Stewed Beans??
Well, it’s an incredibly delicious Italian recipe I made up…sort of!
The inspiration for this recipe comes from the TV show Searching For Italy, where the fabulous Stanley Tucci explores his Italian heritage through the regional cuisines of Italy. While most of the food featured on this show is far from vegan, I do love seeing how much care and love Italian chefs and farmers put into their ingredients and their craft. Every time I watch an episode, I’m excited to make something inspired by the show but with my own plant-based spin.
Episode 5 finds Stanley Tucci in Livorno—a port city on the Ligurian Sea, west of Tuscany—where he enjoys a seafood tomato stew made with very simple but good-quality ingredients. My plant-based interpretation of that dish is a bit loose: I’m not trying to recreate the taste or texture of seafood.
And when I say it’s honest-to-good freakin’ delicious and one of my favorite bean recipes, I am not kidding. And the ingredients are so simple and humble.
Why you’ll love these stewed beans
- A Hug in a Bowl: This is the kind of winter food that warms you from the inside and makes you feel cozy inside. It’s warming and hearty but won’t weigh you down.
- Rich Italian Flavor: This recipe starts by cooking down onions until nicely golden, which builds a first layer of flavor. Carrots and celery are added to complete the traditional northern Italian soffritto, along with lots of garlic and chili flakes for a subtle heat. Fresh sage perfumes the whole stew with a woodsy, camphory aroma, and cooking down a generous amount of tomato paste adds so much umami. Slow simmering infuses the dish with so much flavor.
- Wholesome but Indulgent: Every bite of this feels like a little bit of Italian indulgence, but it’s made with wholesome plant-based ingredients: beans, aromatics, garlic, herbs, tomatoes, olive oil, and vegetable broth. Okay, and a little white wine!
- Allergen-Friendly. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free.
- Meal Prep- and Freezer-Friendly. These stewed beans are a great option for meal prep and freeze beautifully!
Gather your ingredients!
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt until golden, 7-8 minutes. Stir in the carrot, celery, and garlic with a pinch of salt and cook 3-4 minutes.
Add the chopped parsley & sage and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Then squeeze in the tomato paste and stir almost constantly for 2 minutes.
Pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Pour in the crushed tomatoes with their juices, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
Cook at a rapid simmer, until most of the tomato liquid has evaporated, 12 to 13 minutes. Then pour in the cannellini beans and the veggie broth.
Stir to combine, and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir slivered basil into the finished stew.
Tips for making this recipe
Use tomato paste from a tube. Couple reasons for this. First, canned tomato paste tastes metallic (like its can), and since a generous quantity is used in this recipe, that tinny flavor will be noticeable. Second, tomato paste in tubes is preserved with salt instead of citric acid, so the tomato flavor is brighter, fresher, and purer.
Use whole peeled canned tomatoes. If it sounds like I’m making up arbitrary rules, I promise I’m not! When you’re making a recipe with very simple ingredients like this, using the best-quality ingredients available to you is key.
Whole peeled canned tomatoes are made with just tomatoes, nothing else. In contrast, pre-crushed or pre-diced tomatoes have certain additives (e.g., diced tomatoes typically have calcium chloride, which makes them difficult to dissolve and break down). The whole variety, then, is better for flavor and gives you more control over texture.
If your tomatoes are quite acidic, you might need to add a pinch of sugar at the end (taste first, then adjust as needed).
Don’t skimp on the olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is key in any good Tuscan recipe, and I wanted to stay true to that. Plus, it’s the only source of fat here, and honestly, it makes a big difference. It allows the onions to get super sweet and to unleash their umami without the edges browning or burning, so the onions almost melt into the stew. And it adds a rich, luxurious mouthfeel to the whole stew that is absolutely divine.
These stewed beans are supposed to be thick and velvety in texture, but if you prefer a looser consistency, feel free to add 1/2 to 1 cup of additional broth (or water).
Frequently Asked Questions
You can try white grape juice (a no-sugar-added variety) but use about half the amount, as it’s sweeter than wine. Or, you can try 1/2 cup (120 mL) veggie broth + 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar mixed together. You’ll get similar flavors with these substitutes, just not as much complexity of flavor.
Sure! A very appropriate addition would be lacinato kale (AKA Tuscan kale). Chop it finely and add it to the last 5 minutes of the stew, cooking it down until it wilts.
Store in an airtight container for 5 to 6 days. I prefer to reheat in a saucepan on the stove (medium heat), but you can also reheat in the microwave.
Absolutely! This recipe freezes great. Once it’s cool, transfer to a few small containers (makes it quicker to defrost). I like using these single-serve Souper Cubes (affiliate link). It makes it easy to defrost an individual block of the stew on the stove in less than 10 minutes. It should stay good in the freezer for 4 months. Or, you can defrost the stew in the fridge.
Stewed Beans, Livornese-Style
- 1/4 cup (56 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 medium or large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup (4g) flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
- 4 1/2 tablespoons (67g) tomato paste (in a tube, not a can)*
- ¾ cup (180 mL) dry white wine**
- 1 28-ounce (800g) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups (360 mL) vegetable broth, plus more as desired
- 2 (15-ounce/425g) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup (8g) fresh basil, slivered***
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, and season with a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until golden, stirring occasionally. Add in the carrot, celery, and garlic, with another pinch of salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, parsley, and sage and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring almost continuously, for 1 to 2 minutes, until it’s a bit darker in color.
Pour the white wine in and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Allow wine to simmer rapidly for 3 minutes, or until mostly evaporated and it no longer smells like wine, stirring often.
Add tomatoes along with their juices, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and several cracks of black pepper. Cook at a rapid simmer, stirring fairly often, until the tomatoes are fully broken down and most of the liquid has evaporated, 12 to 13 minutes.
Add the veggie broth and 2 cans of beans. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and maintain a decent simmer for 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. If you want the stew to be thicker, towards the end of cooking, use the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula to gently smash a small portion of the beans.
Taste, adding a pinch of sugar if needed (if your tomatoes are good-quality, it should not be necessary). Remove the bay leaf. Finish with chopped basil. Season to taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.
** Pick a dry, crisp white wine such as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Sancerre, Pinot Grigio. If you don’t consume alcohol, read the “Frequently Asked Questions” section for a wine substitute. To check if your wine is vegan, you can use Barnivore.com.
*** If basil is not available, sub with flat-leaf parsley.