For the Love of Borlotti

Borlotti lingua di fuoco (tongue of fire) sounds more like an opera with aphrodisiac qualities rather than one of the eldest heritage variety of borlotti bean, quite the most beautiful bean in the world.

Borlotti whose pink-stippled outer shell’s beauty makes one dream of summer days, sitting on a shaded terrace shelling them ready for a quick supper, knowing they need nothing but a quick boil and lick of olive oil; a pure fast pleasure when fresh.  They are the original Jack & the Beanstalk magic beans, with pods predominantly rose on the outside with flashes of white, whilst the beans themselves are white with splashes of red.  You can almost imagine the symbolism of the milky white & pinky red segueing neatly with those more pious in times gone by, harking on for beans with a transubstantiational spirit.  On a practical note for children that hate green things – these are perfect!

It's a Family Affair

It’s a Family Affair, Borlotti Shelling in Bascianella

Borlotti are more akin to butter beans than the Columbian cranberry bean which is their nearest relative, so it’s hardly surprising they have become the bean of choice for making baked beans by top chefs.  If you can’t find borlotti beans locally I really recommend substituting butter beans for the nearest in flavour and all important texture.

Pasta e fagioli con le cotiche all’Abruzzese is one of my favourite Abruzzo antipasti dishes using dried borlotti beans, many an agriturismo will serve a small pot as one of their hot starters. Beans are traditionally a big thing in Abruzzo; there are some people that visit and think Abruzzo is all about meat from eating out, but look in anyone’s cupboards and cellars and you’ll find plenty of legumes that were traditionally eaten not just for being tasty but as bulk protein – good meat was expensive yesteryear as it is today and not something for everyday.


Surprisingly this warming borlotti bean recipe makes quite the perfect starter for a Valentine’s dinner, unless of course you are somewhere hot &  tropical.   The key to bean cooking (to counter that reputation for wind) is to soak them overnight and cook them slowly for a long time after your initial fast & furious boil for the initial 10 minutes,  dried beans are the original slow food that require a good soak in addition to long-period cooking.  Borlotti beans aren’t fattening, containing only 2% fat, and are high in both proteins and carbohydrates so not matter what type of diet regime you are trying out these beans work, as well as being yummy! They’ll sustain you through your Valentine’s night if cooked properly, but they need time.  They, like all other beans, aren’t currently in season but any good deli should have them either dried or tinned.

I use Queen of Abruzzo cuisine Anna Teresa Callen’s recipe for Pasta fagioli con le cotiche all ‘Abruzzese in her recipe book Food & Memories of Abruzzo, click here for the full recipe!

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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