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Risotto e Fagioli (risotto with beans)

Risotto e Fagioli

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Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a recipe in The Fine Art of Italian Cooking by Giuliano Bugialli.

It is uncommon for Italians to combine beans and rice. You see beans and rice in Spanish and other Latin cuisine, but it is rare in Italy—except, it seems, in Tuscany where this dish is commonly made with black-eyed peas. I substituted cannellini beans for more Italian appeal, as black-eyed peas originated from Asia.

Ingredients:

For the Beans:
1 cup (7 to 8 ounces/200 to 225g) dried cannellini beans or black eyed peas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic; peeled and gently crushed
1 fresh Roma tomato, or 2 canned; peeled, seeded, and chopped
6 to 8 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dry thyme
For the Risotto:
2 large cloves garlic; peeled and minced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves; minced if fresh, or use 1 teaspoon dried thyme
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (15 ounces/425g) Arborio rice
4 cups (950ml) chicken, beef, or vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
Salt and pepper to taste
To finish:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for garnish at the table
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, more for garnish at the table

Directions:

For the beans: If using dry beans, soak them overnight in cold water mixed with 1 tablespoon salt, enough water to cover the beans well (about double the volume). Before cooking, drain and rinse well.

Bring 1½ to 2 quarts (1 to 1.5 liters) of unsalted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the beans with the olive oil, garlic, tomato, and thyme. Barely bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1½ hours. The water should barely simmer. Agitating the beans with boiling water can break them up. When cooked, drain the beans, discarding the garlic and thyme sprigs (if using). Set the beans aside.

For the Risotto: Heat the stock in a saucepan until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat to low and keep it at a simmer. In a large saucepan heat the oil. Sauté the garlic and thyme for 1 minute over medium-low heat. Add the rice and sauté 4 minutes, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to low and add 1 ladle (about ½ cup/120ml) of hot stock. Simmer the rice with the stock until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Add another ladle of stock and again cook until the liquid is absorbed. Continue until about 1 cup of stock remains.

Add the cooked beans and a little stock. Stir gently so as not to damage the beans. Continue cooking, gently simmering and stirring, adding more stock as needed, until all the stock is used. Total cooking time should be 18 to 20 minutes for an al dente rice.

Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes. Add the grated cheese and the oil. Mix gently and serve.

Place additional cheese and olive oil on the table for guests to use as garnish, if desired.