Advice for beans

illustration By mark stivers

It’s inevitable: Every time I am pawing through a mountainous pile of cranberry, or borlotti, beans at the Sunday farmers’ market, someone will lean over and ask me what I’m going to do with them. According to Marcella Hazan, borlotti beans are used in the Italian dish pasta e fagioli (it’s not really “pasta fazool,” despite what Dean Martin may sing), so that’s how I prepare them. The pretty, raw beans are a feast for the eyes, which alleviates the tedium of shelling them. To make pasta and beans: Sauté an onion in olive oil for five minutes, throw in a few chopped tomatoes (blanched and peeled if you are not lazy, which I am), throw in a cup or so of shelled beans, cover well with broth or water and gently simmer for about 45 minutes. Scoop out half of the beans and mash them for texture. Check the tenderness of the beans, season to taste and throw in a pasta of your choice, using the al dente time of the pasta as your guide for cooking time. Better the second day.