The Tuscan version of a pot on the stove could be ribollita, a thick twice-cooked bread soup that has a foundation of white beans.
White beans are very easy to make and very versatile, for everything from appetizers to main courses.
We see a lot of people on the cooking shows using canned white cannellini beans, but although they work OK in a pinch , but generally they taste too, well, canned. Our favorite recipe comes from Saveur, a food magazine that we loved to read, but admittedly rarely used for actual cooking.
Here's the recipe:
1 lb. dried cannellini or navy beans
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 or 5 fresh sage leaves
3 to 5 whole black peppercorns
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Sort through the beans, discarding any small stones; then rinse the beans under cold running water. Place them in a large casserole, cover with at least two inches with cold water, and set aside to soak for four hours or overnight. (You can also use the quick-soak method on the dried-bean bag.)
2. Drain beans; then add 12 cups cold water, two tablespoons olive oil, garlic, sage, and peppercorns. Cover the casserole, bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for about one hour. Season to taste with salt, reduce heat to medium low, and gently simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the skins are tender and the beans are soft, about one more hour.
3. Remove from heat, set aside, and let beans cool in the cooking liquid. To serve, reheat beans in the liquid over medium-low heat, drain them, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the remaining olive oil.
You can eat these right out of the pot, drizzled with a bit more olive oil. Add a piece of sourdough toast and a roaring fire, and you have a simple but wonderful winter dinner.