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  • Writer's picturePasta Grammar

Italian Cowboy Beans | Fagioli alla Trinità

This bean dish is inspired by the 1970 Spaghetti western, They Call Me Trinity. The hearty plate of cowboy beans which was served in an infamous scene of the film isn't quite fiction, however: it's actually based on a Tuscan dish called "Fagioli all'Uccelletta."

Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make this recipe here:

Serves 2.

For this recipe, you will need:

- 3.5 oz. (100g) dry borlotti or cranberry beans

- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

- 1/4 large white onion, diced

- 2-3 fresh sage leaves, chopped

- 1-2 slices of cured pancetta or bacon, chopped

- 1 chili pepper, dry or fresh, sliced

- 3 canned whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with a fork, plus 3 spoonfuls of the purée from the can

- Salt

- Fresh black pepper

- Fresh bread for serving (optional)

Begin by cooking the beans. Place them in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until they are soft but not mushy. This can take several hours, depending on the quality of the beans. Soak them overnight beforehand to reduce the cooking time.

As the beans cook, add more hot water as necessary to keep them submerged. Never stir them; instead, swirl the pot around to move them every now and then.

When the beans are cooked, turn off the heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sage. Sauté for about 2 minutes before adding the chopped pancetta. Continue to cook until the bacon is beginning to brown and become crispy on the edges,

Use a slotted spoon to add the beans into the skillet. Don't discard the bean water, though! Sauté all together for a further 2 minutes, being careful not to crush the beans by over-stirring.

Finally, add the tomaotes/purée, 1-2 ladlefuls of the bean water, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Serve with some fresh bread. Buon appetito!

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Nov 13, 2023

I could eat this every day for the rest of my life. I love beans but dislike sweet foods (other than desserts) so thus preparation—no brown sugar, no molasses—hits the spot.

Last night I did them again with a twist—stopped the bean cooking early, added extra puree and water to the sauce, and let the beans finish in there, absorbing the tomato sauce as it reduced. It was great.

Feb 02
Replying to

Agree. No sugar, no molasses but a ton of garlic instead ;-)


Rene Milton
Rene Milton
Jul 12, 2022

Just made these for dinner and I too almost ate the whole pot! Thank you Eva and Harper!


Shawn Kingston
Shawn Kingston
Feb 21, 2022

I made this recipe tonight and it was delicious. This will go into rotation and I expect to be making it often. It is quick to make and had a great flavor. I wouldn't have thought to add sage to a bean dish, but it totally works. Thank you so much for this recipe. It is so much fun to try the Italian way of cooking.

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