How To Make Really Great Beans

How To Make Really Great Beans

We’re back with another (anti) recipe, this time for really great beans! This recipe can feed 4 to 8 people depending on the portion sizes and use. For example, if serving it with pasta it will stretch a little further, especially if blending to make a sauce. But as a soup or served up in a bowl it might only be enough for 4 people.

One of the most beautiful things about beans is they’re easy. They’re also flexible, absorb great flavor, and don’t really require a strict recipe. So why are we writing this ‘recipe’? Well, it’s more of a guide, a great place to start with a sturdy foundation. Take this and make it your own by adding/omitting the spices and type of soffritto to your preference!

Should You Soak The Beans?

We always soak our beans regardless of the type. Presoaking allows the beans to absorb water and soften which speeds up the cooking process. Of course, different types of beans will have different soak times, but in the end, we soak all beans, including lentils.

People seem to have strong opinions on soaking vs not soaking, ourselves included. For us, it comes down to saving time, gas/electricity (which also saves $!), and personal energy. Since we operate a small, family-owned business across two continents that heavily focuses on food, we already spend a ton of time cooking and creating recipes. We prefer to spend any extra time outside of the kitchen and don’t want to be going back and forth to the stove for 4 hours waiting for the beans to cook.

Black Beans, Cannellini, Black Eyed Peas, Garbanzo Beans

No two batches of beans are the same. In addition, depending on how long beans have been dried or on the shelf they will require different soaking times. Basically there is no one size fits all rule for soaking beans.

We soak black beans and cannellini for 6 to 8 hours. Black-eyed peas and garbanzos are soaked the longest, with black-eyed peas being soaked for at least 8 hours and garbanzo for up to 14 hours. Garbanzo can be extremely hard, therefore, need a lot of extra soak time.

Reach into the bowl and grab a bean. Squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger. If it’s soft enough to break under medium pressure then they’re ready to be cooked.


A lot of people don’t soak lentils because they can cook quite quickly. We soak for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then we cook them up like any other bean and they’re ready to go! Lentils are also delicious when blended and used as a pasta sauce.

Other Beans

When cooking beans you’re not familiar with, test the required soaking time. Cover them with water in the morning and see if they soften up by the afternoon that way you can make them for dinner.

Keep Or Toss Bean Water

After we soak beans we dispose of the bean water or soaking liquid. Italians are big on digestion, something that is going to be different for everyone. We notice that it’s easier to digest beans after they’ve been soaked and the liquid has been discarded. We also rinse the beans a few times before the cooking process.

This is a personal preference. A lot of people love keeping bean water to cook the beans in or even storing to use in a broth later because it has great flavor. Do what’s best for you.

Start With Soffritto

You can start this recipe with bacon/guanciale/pancetta or skip the meat and go for a traditional soffritto of extra virgin olive oil, carrot, and celery. If you start with a fatty meat, make sure all the fat ‘melts’, see our soffritto recipe. Then take a look at the amount of fat in the pan and decide how much olive oil to add, if any.

There should be a thin yet clearly visible layer of fat in the pan. However, it varies depending on the fat content of the meat. It’s usually best to add a few tbsp of olive oil to ensure there’s enough fat/olive oil in the pan to lightly fry the soffritto because this is what carries the flavors throughout the dish.

Cooking Liquid

You can cook beans in bean soaking water, regular water, or chicken or vegetable broth. However, if you’re using broth make sure it’s not salty. While salted broth might be great for risotto or ragu alla bolognese, it’s not great for beans.

Making a Bean Pasta Sauce

Just about any beans can be cooked up and served with pasta in a sort of soup or cooked and blended into a concentrated sauce. Both work extremely well. When beans are blended they become incredibly rich and creamy, coupled with starchy pasta you have a comforting plate of pasta.

Salt At The End

It’s super important to only salt beans at the end of the cooking process. Beans absorb a lot of salt and at the beginning of the cooking process, there’s a lot of liquid in the pot. Therefore, if you salt according to the amount of liquid in the pot at the beginning of the cooking process instead of the end it’s really easy to oversalt the dish. In addition, if you’re adding things like cheese rinds or some freshly grated cheese at the end of the cooking process those can also add salt. Lastly, if you’re using broth for this recipe instead of water you might not need to add any salt at all. We recommend you use a broth with no salt or a small amount. It’s always better to under salt and have to add more at the end.

Wait until about 10 minutes before the beans are completely cooked to salt. This will allow the salt to move through the dish and avoid any oversalting as only a small amount of liquid is going to evaporate.

You May Also Like…

How To Make Italian Soffritto

How To Cook With Olive Oil

Pasta all’Amatriciana Recipe

If you make this soffritto, please leave a comment and give this recipe a rating! We love to hear from you and do respond to comments. And if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag us on Instagram and Facebook and use #EXAUoliveoil so we can repost!

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