Minna’s Favorite Recipes

Florence and the Tuscan Hills


Minna is the name our grandchildren call my wife, Diane. She is a magnificent cook and, from time to time , we will publish her favorite recipes. Here is the first…

Tuscan Beans with Tuna, Pancetta and Lemon

A very Tuscan recipe, I found this in an early Best of Food and Wine, The Italian Collection, from Giuliano Bugialli. I’ve served it as an entrée with an insalata mista, and also served over a slice of Tuscan bread  toasted and rubbed with garlic.  In both cases, use a good peasant bread – Tuscan, of course, if you can.  In fact, this sounds so good it might just be dinner tonight!

8 Servings

2 cups dried white beans (12 ounces) rinsed and picked over

¼ cup olive oil

12 large sage leaves, fresh or preserved in salt*

4 large garlic cloves

¼ pound thickly sliced pancetta or prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 can (6 ½ ounces) Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained

Freshly ground pepper

*Available at Italian markets

1.  In a large bowl, soak the beans overnight in cold water to cover.  Alternatively, place the beans in a medium saucepan with cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  At boiling point, turn off the heat, cover and set aside for 1 hour.

2.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Drain the beans and rinse well.  In a medium casserole, combine the beans with the oil, sage, garlic, pancetta and salt.  Cover tightly and bake for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender.  Remove from the oven.

(The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 2 days ahead.  Reheat before proceeding).

3.  Stir the lemon juice and tuna into the beans and bake uncovered for 10 minutes longer. Season with pepper to taste and serve hot.


1.  You can use good quality canned beans, but they will be mushier.

2.  If you are planning to serve this as an entrée, you might consider fresh tuna, which you can poach or season and sauté and serve it either chunked and gently mixed in or as a whole piece placed on top of the beans in individual dishes.

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13 Comments on “Minna’s Favorite Recipes”

  1. Fran Loszynski Says:

    Sounds delicious. I’m a big tuna lover. Here is a recipe with a little spice to it.
    tuna in oil combined with green peppers, a touch of hot pepper sauce, mayonnaise and shredded lettuce on a roll. Have a glass of water available!!!!

    • Diane Davies Parrinello Says:

      Ed and Diane,
      Great recipe. Love the fact that most can be done beforehand. Fran Loszinski’s version needs a glass of milk on hand instead of the water. Milk neutralizes the capsaisin while water just spreads it around. Take it from an Irishman who had to learn to eat and cook “hot” as an adult.
      Diane Parrinello

  2. Pat Santoro Says:

    Hi Ed,

    What a great idea, including Di in your blog – she’s a shy flower but a fabulous cook. Frank will appreciate the vegetarian version of this Tuscan bean dish, but I will miss the pancetta. Thanks again, Diane. Pretty picture, too. Pat

  3. Marie Russian Says:

    Hi Dr. Ed & Dianne,

    This is a great recipe. Thanks. For those who are pressed for time like I am, I do use canned cannelini beans, and no pancetta (my husband had high cholestrol).
    My dad liked this with raw white onions sliced over the dish and crisp Italian bread.
    Very nourishing !


  4. Marie Russian Says:

    Hi Dr. Ed & Diane,

    I do use canned beans & no pancetta ( for those with high cholesterol).
    My dad loved it with sliced raw white onion on top.
    Very nourishing !


  5. Marie Russian Says:

    Dr. Ed,
    I tried twice to send in the shorter version,but
    I could not delete the first version !!


  6. The Falls Says:

    Great recipe, Diane, and beautiful photos.

  7. Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo Says:

    Caro Dr. Ed, Well done and it is good to see your face and Minna! I am always amazed how similar our stories are, I even found that Italian Canadians had similar stories of growing up Italian. I lived in mixed neighbor, mostly Polish and we got along very well. Our values were similar. Today so many people do not share similar values, even family members and relatives! I was spoiled for ever by having Christmas at my paternal home. The whole family together and now most are gone. I still carry
    on most of our customs and traditions but it is very difficult to pass them on. Perhaps later in their lives they will come to appreicate their Italian heritage! I trying to set an example, rather than preaching. It has been said that God gives memories to enjoy in the winter time of our lives. I sure have plenty of them and they make me happy. Warm regards, Prof. Phil (Albany, NY)

  8. joey c Says:

    My mom used to serve escarole and white beans
    (canneloni) served in olive oil and garlic.
    I’d have it for breakfast and go to school
    with garlic breath. Now you know why I was a
    virgin until I was thirty…

  9. barbara notte Says:

    I was lucky to have my mother marry into an Italian family when I was seven…a skinny seven year old transplanted Virginian.

    One of our first outings was to my new relatives house where the men played fingers(?)with great excitement and everyone was waiting for the food… AH BEETS.

    Can you figure it out?

    Strange these people to get so excited by beets

  10. Sattar Memon MD Says:

    I vicariously read Dr. Ed’s beautifully written book “Growing Up Italian.”
    I knew Ed was a good Doctor, but little I knew that Ed could paint scenes of bossy lady in the movie theater, a romp in the market with mom for icecream or a piece of pie, interaction with uncles and the topping on the cake: “Grandpa’s Fig Tree”, in few crisp, simple words.His words carry the hew of happiness he has experienced in his childhood. His stories are real, warm and very comforting– warm and soothing like an old-style sumptuous Italian or Indian dish. Ed has not missed out on making a delicious melange, pastiche, collage… of these old and wholesome foods, flavors, colors and cultures– especially the family-oriented Italian culture, replete with traditions, perseverence and pride.
    Although I grew up in 40s and 50s of rural India, somehow I was able to relate with Ed’s childhood in urban ambience of Providence. I think that’s because in the core , the heart of his short, smoothly flowing stories lies the soul of the same wholesomeness and nurturing traditions that never fail to spawn that fuzzy feeling in your heart and flicker a smile on your face, conveying,”yeah, Ed, I’ve been there! I know how simple but good were them good ole days. But Ed, thank you very much for having me revisit the magic and charm of them good ole days!
    Ed is such an effective…natural, effortless writer, I’d love to read another short story compilation By Ed.It always makes me very happy and proud when I see a dormant/quiescent talent in a doctor, blossom and bear fruits of regenerative arts/expressions.I’m very proud of you, Ed, my good colleague, and if I may say, simpatico!

    • Sattar, you are so very kind to take time from your day to recount in such vivid detail and thought the things I have written. Only from one so connected to his past can memories flow. And this a wonderful compliment from an accomplished author yourself. Much appreciation.
      Vi ringrazio!

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