Recipe: Fagioli all’uccelletto – beans in tomato sauce

Fagioli all’uccelletto - beans in tomato sauceThe main lessons I learnt on my trip last month to Italy with Cirio were that less is more, and cook quality ingredients simply.  Buying the cheapest ingredients can indeed be a false economy, and it is a matter of knowing what to spend on and what to save on.

The classic Tuscan dish of Fagioli all’uccelletto – beans in tomato sauce, is a prime example of a frugal, but delicious dish – by buying a premium tomato such as Cirio frugal beans are made into something really rather special, and a frugal meal becomes a treat rather than a penance.

We ate these beans in Osteria dal 1931 in Trastevere, Rome.  I am sure that my version is not that authentic, but certainly carries the spirit and sentiment of the original.

A few notes on cooking beans – I far prefer to cook my beans from dried, they taste far superior, packets of dried beans are cheaper and easier to transport home from the supermarket than tins.   I soak overnight and then gently simmer the beans, either on the hob or in the slow cooker.  I find that with a fast boil that the beans can go from hard to mush very fast, or the inside cooks and expands whist the skin is still tight causing the beans to split.    When soaking beans I place the beans in a bowl, add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, cover with boiling water and soak overnight. Before cooking drain, rinse and cook in fresh water.   You can, if you run out of time, freeze the soaked beans and finish cooking them another time.    With an overnight soak and the bicarb treatment I find that all dried beans and pulses cook really fast (about 20 minutes for chickpeas – but timings will vary according to how old the beans are).

I really recommend making a big batch of this and freezing some.  As with all these type of dishes it is immeasurably better when left to get cold and then reheated.

Recipe: Fagioli all’uccelletto – beans in tomato sauce

Serves 4

200g dried beans – I used pinto, a dried white bean is more Tuscan and would work just as well
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbs good olive oil
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
A few fresh sage leaves, or a pinch of dried herbs
540g bottle Cirio passata
70g pot Cirio tomato puree

The night before you make the dish place the beans and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Set to one side and allow to soak overnight.

Drain the beans and rinse well.  Put into a large saucepan, cover with boiling water and let them simmer until three quarters done – so the outside of the bean is soft, but the centre is still chalky, this will take between 20 – 40 minutes depending on the type and size of bean.  Drain and rinse, reserving a cup of the cooking water.

Whilst the beans are cooking gently heat the garlic and herbs in the olive oil, in a large frying pan, you want them to infuse rather than cook.

Add the passata (rinse the bottle out with a splash of the bean soaking water), puree to the pan and the beans, stir, season with salt and pepper and allow to cook on the lowest heat for about an hour until the beans are tender, add some of the bean cooking water during this time if needed.

Serve with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a liberal sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper.

I am so impressed with the Cirio passata, thick, silky smooth and richly flavoured it is delicious straight from the bottle, and would make a very good base for a bloody Mary too.  It comes in plastic bottles, so if you only use half a bottle simply put the lid back on and pop into the freezer until you next need some.

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Fuss Free Flavours was commissioned by Cirio to travel to Italy on a journey to discover the #TrueItalian food. All opinions are my own.

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About Helen

Helen Best-Shaw is a freelance food & writer, photographer who has been writing about achievable, affordable and mostly healthy food on Fuss Free Flavours since 2007. She also contributes articles, recipes and photos to a number of online and print food magazines. Please do contact me if you would like to discuss commissioning work.

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  1. Jane Willis says:

    A slow cooker beef curry

  2. Katie Corr says:

    a delicious spaghetti bolognese

  3. Vicki Macdonald says:

    A lasagne

  4. Beautiful and definitely takes me back to our Italian adventures! Lovely for a veggie like me too. My husband would probably add bacon :)

  5. A spicy veg casserole.

  6. liz denial says:

    I’d use it in virtually everything, lasagne, chilli, pasta bake

  7. Amelia Kennedy says:

    Quorn chilli for me!

  8. Natasha B says:

    I would make an amazing spagbol :)

  9. Russian Borscht

  10. A homemade pizza margherita

  11. laura banks says:

    chilli con carne

  12. Jan Beal says:

    A mediterranean bean dish made with onions, tinned tomatoes butter beans and mint. Gorgeous hot or cold!!

  13. Leah Wheatley says:

    Thank you for the recipie

  14. Tracy Nixon says:


  15. angela sandhu says:

    I use a lot of tomatoes in curries so that is what I would use it for if I won x

  16. Chilli – nice and hot !

  17. sarah clarke feltham says:

    Spaghetti Bolognese

  18. Tracey Belcher says:

    A lovely Rogan Josh :)

  19. kim neville says:

    a nice Lasagne

  20. Chilli Con Carne :)

  21. Jean Bolsover says:

    One of the family’s favourites, Spaghetti Bolonese :)

  22. elaine dale says:

    spaghetti Bolognese would go down well

  23. melanie stirling says:

    Quorn bolognese and chilli.

  24. slow cooker pulled pork

  25. Tracey Gwynne says:

    I would make some spicy pizza base sauces

  26. Andrew Petrie says:

    Spaghetti Bolognese

  27. sue hodges says:


  28. Spaghetti bolognese yummy

  29. Hazel Rea says:

    I like to cook white fish in a tomato, basil and garlic sauce so I would start with that.

  30. Lyn Bosomworth says:

    chicken curry mmm

  31. Val Hartley says:

    Tomato soup

  32. Sally Lea says:

    Spaghetti putanesca

  33. Lorraine Tinsley says:

    A nice ratatouille

  34. Rikka B says:

    A veggie lasagne

  35. Sarahann Tonner says:

    Lasagne :)

  36. Vikki R says:

    Chilli non-carne :)

  37. IRENE BOLTON says:

    Meatballs and Spaghetti

  38. frances hopkins says:

    Spag bol x

  39. paul jackson says:

    chilli con carne

  40. Its Lasagne for me

  41. A creamy lasagne!

  42. My tomato and pepper sauce.

  43. jennifer thorpe says:

    pasta bolognese

  44. I’d make a caponata with aubergines, tomatoes, capers and olives

  45. Sharon Griffin says:

    spaghetti bolognese

  46. Lasagne

  47. Susie Anderson says:

    Spaghetti Bolognaise

  48. I would try your recipe first. It sounds lovely and simple. I find that the Italian names for dishes make it sound so much more posh and exotic than the English version. Beans in tomato sauce doesn’t sound very exciting, but it looks fantastic and your words make me want to eat it right up!

  49. Catherine Amaro says:


  50. Mary Chez says:

    spaghetti bolognese

  51. Sausage casserole

  52. Garlicky mushroom and tomato sauce for pasta. Simple and very yummy.

  53. Emma Nixon says:

    A lasagne

  54. Lynsey Buchanan says:

    spaghetti Bolognese

  55. Amy Ripley says:

    spaghetti bolognaise!

  56. As I’m part Italian this screams comfort to me!!

  57. Felicity kelly says:

    Tuna pasta bake yum

  58. Catherine McAlinden says:

    Spicy veggie chilli

  59. Lisa Pepper says:

    Pasta with tomato sauce and olives, with a bit of grated cheese on top, nomnomnom :)

  60. julie laing says:

    Tomato soup for me

  61. Sarah Morris says:

    Spaghetti Bolognese, I crave it after a few weeks of not having it.

  62. Vivien Baird says:

    Spaghetti Bolognese

  63. Ritchie Dee says:


  64. Jill Webb says:

    lasagne the family favourite

  65. I would use them in a vegetable curry.

  66. ooh a lovely idea this beany tomato stew is perfect comfort fare.

  67. Maya Russell says:

    I’d cook a bolognese sauce.

  68. William Gould says:

    Two main dishes – Chilli and an old stew recipe involving layer of meat, onions, carrots and potatoes with chopped tomatoes!

  69. stephanie Llewellyn says:


  70. Stephanie Tsang says:

    I would make lasagna.

  71. tamalyn roberts says:

    spahetti bolognese

  72. Peak Lee says:


  73. Hester McQueen says:

    Spaghetti bolognese

  74. Mark Palmer says:


  75. EMMA WALTERS says:

    perfect for making pizza sauce :)

  76. Lorraine Polley says:

    would use them in Chilli con carne

  77. Carys Jones says:

    Bolognese using Quorn mince.

  78. sarah birkett says:

    spaghetti bolognese, not exciting but always popular

  79. lynn savage says:

    I would make a fab tomato based chilli

  80. Christine Shelley says:

    a Spaghetti Bolognese , my families favourite

  81. Victoria says:


  82. Matt Froggatt says:

    spaghetti bolognese

  83. A veggie lasagne :)

  84. Caroline H says:

    I’d love it in a spicy veggie rogan josh.

  85. use a basis for a home made pasta sauce

  86. Angela Wheeler says:

    I use it as a base for red sauce for lasagne

  87. Sheila Reeves says:

    Gazpacho – I have used tinned tomatoes when there aren’t enough good flavoured fresh ones, useful for a quick meal too.

  88. Jeff Wolf says:

    I love pasta dishes, so something like a classic lasagne.

  89. Oh if only Ted would eat beans of any variety :-(. I can’t complain because he isn’t remotely fussy but he simply refuses to eat beans or pulses of any variety hence we don’t eat as many as a family as we otherwise would.

  90. Lani Nash says:

    A good chilli I think!

  91. Julia Nicholls says:

    Many different dishes, but particularly as a base of a pasta sauce.

  92. Oh, so it’s like the Italian version of British baked beans? Looks good!

  93. cecelia allen says:

    A lovely home made BBQ sauce using Tinned tomatoes, red onion, garlic, honey, mustard, vinegar, worcestershire sauce and a dash of curry powder

  94. George Worboys Wright says:

    Huevos Rancheros is our favourite thing to make with Cirio tomatoes at the moment!

  95. Arabiatta sauce with penne and pecorino

  96. taja mckenzie says:

    Italian Sausage tomato Soup

  97. Benji Collier says:

    Tomato soup, my favourite!

  98. My spicy tomato pasta.

  99. kellyjo walters says:

    spag bowl

  100. Solange says:

    A lasagne

  101. Leona S Fisher says:

    A lovely spag bol!

  102. A Beautiful Bolognese :)

  103. Teresa Lee says:

    Spaghetti bolognese

  104. Susan Joyce Rogers says:

    Spaghetti bolognaise

  105. Daphne Mueller says:

    beef goulash

  106. Ashleigh Allan says:


  107. esme mccrubb says:

    chilli con carne

  108. I would be quite boring and make a spagetti bolognase. Firm family favourite.

  109. Becca Staples says:

    A nice spaghetti bolognese x

  110. Terence Raymond Lewis says:

    Spaghetti Bolognese

  111. faye huntington says:

    lasagne!! so yummy! faye x

  112. Barbara Handley says:

    Spaghetti Bolognese

  113. homemade fresh pizza

  114. Laura Murray says:

    Ooh a nice hearty chilli :)

  115. Joy Lawson says:

    Meatballs, yum

  116. LESLEY BRADLEY says:

    A hot n spicy beef chilli

  117. katie skeoch says:

    a fabulous minestrone

  118. Janet Dring says:

    A lovely Quorn lasagne

  119. Abigail Cullen says:

    A bolognese

  120. A veggie bolognese.

  121. gnocchi alla Sorrentina

  122. A curry! :)

  123. Katherine L says:

    I’d love to reduce the sauce and use it on pizza!

  124. Kiran Parry says:


  125. I would use it to make a spicy Moroccan dish with lots of veggies and baked eggs in it.

  126. Neil Graham says:

    A chilli in the slow cooker

  127. elaine dale says:

    spaghettii bolognese omelette

  128. Put it on Macaroni Cheese

  129. Irene Wright says:

    Tomatoes are the most versatile product in my cooking cupboard. Use them in loads of different ways. Currently whilst peppers are abundant, I love to cook up a little minced beef, add herbs & tomatoes, fill the peppers (red, green and/or yellow) and top up with cheese and cook them in the halogen oven for around 20 minutes.
    If you are vegetarian or just like a change, use brown breadcrumbs, herbs & tomatoes, add an egg for binding, top with cheese again – delicious.

  130. tracey thompson says:

    spaghetti bolognaise

  131. Spag bol.

  132. Gillian Hutchison says:

    baked tomato burgers. They are yum!

  133. Kirstin Lydon says:

    Tuna lasagne.

  134. Ingrid (aka Dollphin) says:

    Veggie lasagne

  135. kazza ham says:

    chilli con carne

  136. Carole Walker says:


  137. Sarah Parker says:

    spag bol :)

  138. A fiery chilli or a very simple pasta dish

  139. Helen belton says:

    A tomato and peanut african soup to help with my diet :)

  140. Steve S says:

    Chicken Madras

  141. Lasagne

  142. Catherine Thorp says:

    Roast veggie lasagne

  143. Sue Obrien says:

    A pasta sauce

  144. NIGEL HILL says:

    Chilli Con Carne

  145. an amazing lasagne

  146. Gavin O'Shaughnessy says:

    Spicy beef lasagne

  147. Kay Broomfield says:

    Roasted vegetable lasagne :)

  148. paula marriott says:

    chicken arriabata

  149. Nigel Greaves says:

    Shepherds Pie

  150. Lynne OConnor says:


  151. Amanda Mallows says:

    I would make a ratatouille to go with sea bass

  152. Liz Marriott says:

    Tomato and basil soup

  153. Samantha B says:

    A really tomatoey curry

  154. denise s says:


  155. catherine plant says:

    spaghetti bolgnaise

  156. Jen Webb says:

    Spagetti Bolognese :)

  157. cheryl hadfield says:

    I would make a sausage and bean casserole

  158. Stephanie Burchatt says:

    Bolognese sauce!

  159. Rachel B says:

    I’d make some superb and simple tomato and garlic spaghetti

  160. Karen Whittaker says:

    Tomato and spinach curry

  161. Fiona Mallard says:

    Spaghetti Bolognese

  162. Kristy Brown says:

    Home made meatballs with tomato and basil sauce

  163. Julia Wulff says:

    I would cook spaghetti puttanecsa

  164. Kayleigh Beirne says:

    vegetarian spaghetti and meatballs

  165. Emily Jayne Phipps says:

    Spag bol, always a winner :D

  166. Spaghetti bolognese, it always goes down well

  167. Danika Lloyd says:

    Meatballs & spaghetti

  168. You know it is lovely to see lovely, clean and simple recipes like these because you really demonstrate how easy it is to achieve full flavour and that opening a salt and sugary can of precooked beans in tomato sauce is not the only way x

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