Food & Wine magazine’s Emily Kaiser wrote an article in November of 2008 that highlighted two of my favorite things: Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, and a bean recipe from NOPA – a restaurant that was just a short walk from my front door for many years. I’ve enjoyed Laurence Jossel’s beans countless times, both at the restaurant and by making them in my own kitchen. I even brought them to Thanksgiving one year. Imagine plump, creamy beans baked in a bright, chunky tomato sauce, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs, plenty of tangy crumbled feta, and an emerald drizzle of oregano-parsley pesto. I love his original recipe, but the last time I made them I decided to add a few of my own twists. I did a subtly smoky chipotle-version of the tomato sauce, a cilantro drizzle, kale, whole grain bread crumbs, and queso fresco cheese. I’m including the recipe down below.
Make Ahead Magic
One of the great things about this recipe is that you can do many of the components ahead of time. You can boil the dried beans, make the pesto, make the tomato sauce, and toast the breadcrumbs. None of which are exceedingly difficult. You can then assemble the components in a flash, and into the oven it goes. Perfect for when you have friends over.
Can I Use Canned Beans?
I’m sure someone is going to ask, so I’ll answer ahead of time – how about substituting canned beans? Ok – here’s the deal – in my experience canned beans lack the structure that beans cooked from scratch have. The canned guys tend to break and go to mush far more quickly. In this recipe they will likely work, but won’t hold up as well. The flavor will be fine, but the texture will be a different beast. If you go this route, don’t skimp on the bread crumbs.
Give these beans a try (either version!), they are outrageously good. The shot above is the recipe in progress, before baking. And the photo below is the beans prior to soaking. They’re huge. You’re looking for beans the size of your thumb prior to soaking for this recipe. I make some suggestion for different types in the recipe below.
Also! There are no shortage of bean recipes on this site. The ones I make most often are these homemade refried beans, and if you’ve never cooked beans from dried, no problem! This post will show you how to cook beans that are simple and amazing.