Italian Navy Beans

About this recipe

Okay, no military jokes. This is our version of pork and beans. Buy 2 lb. dried white beans (also called navy beans). Soak overnight in lots of cold water. In the morning, rinse, pick out the ugly ones, and gently boil in fresh water for 45-60 minutes (until beans start to crack). Then rinse again and use below.


Place a Dutch oven on the stove; turn heat to just under medium and fry:

  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil,
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (minced),
  • 1 large cooking onion (diced),
  • 1 lb. loose sausage meat or 2 cups cooked ham (diced),
  • 1½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. basil, and 1 tsp. chili pepper.

Brown the meat and let the onion cook. When the meat is well browned, add:

  • 1 cup white wine,
  • 3 carrots (diced),
  • 3 stalks celery (diced),
  • your 2 lb. rehydrated beans (rinsed, gently boiled, and then rinsed again—remember?).

Cover and let wine absorb into everything for 10 minutes. Then remove lid and cook another few minutes until the wine has almost evaporated.

When everybody looks happy, add:

  • 1 (28 oz.) can plum tomatoes (blended) plus enough water to swish out the can.

Cover (with lid slightly askew) and simmer for 30-45 minutes. When beans are tender, they’re ready. Serve with sliced white onion over top.


  • White onion is the mild one you use in salads.
  • Soak beans in the fridge (this is supposed to lessen their gas).
  • If you’re afraid of tooting, don’t worry; Italians never toot—we just sweat.
  • If making as a side dish, maybe forget about the pork (I don’t know, it’s just an idea).
  • If you’re substituting Great Northern beans, they need to be pre-boiled a little longer.
  • If you don’t think these beans are great, you’ve done something wrong. Try again tomorrow.
  • If your beans turn out a little hard, freeze them. Freezing breaks down fibres, so they’ll be fine once thawed.
    For poor man’s jambalaya: add a fish fillet (e.g., snapper) or shrimp and/or cubed chicken breast along with the sausage or ham. Then throw in 1-2 cups washed rice with 20 minutes to go. In this case, use 2 cans tomatoes and more spice.

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