Marinated Cannellini Beans

PREP TIME: 20mins


Cannellini beans, also called white kidney beans, are often used in Italian recipes including minestrone soup and bean salads. They have a smooth texture and nutty flavour which I love.

We are going to mix the cooked beans in a wonderfully fragrant oil which we are going to infuse with lots of lemons, garlic and herbs to give it a subtle but noticeable flavour. The better the olive oil the better the dish! Extra Virgin – always.

I tend to soak my beans overnight in water with a little bicarb which ensures the best texture when cooked the following day. If you are pressed for time two cans will do but the texture will be different.

This dish is best served at room temperature on a hot day with a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Getting Ahead: The dressed beans will happily sit in the fridge for a week drenched in oil, making it the perfect make ahead dish.

Leftovers: Perfect leftover territory, see below for serving suggestions.


Serving Suggestion:

Serve as part of an antipasti medley! Pretty Heirloom Tomatoes, grilled peppers, aubergines, a few dips and maybe a leafy salad.

To me the beans are the perfect topping to a ‘just toasted’ bruschetta generously rubbed with a garlic clove. The beans deserve a fantastic loaf though and if you are in Cape Town you can order the best bread for delivery from Mount Elsewhere Bakery (I did!).

You can add lots to make the salad your own: sun-dried tomatoes, chopped cucumber, pitted kalamata olives, grilled artichokes, crumbled feta – you get the idea!

A ball of creamy (and oozy) burrata or a good buffalo mozzarella on top or on the side would be lovely.

Omnivores: You can add some chopped onions and tuna for a fabulous tuna salad.

What you'll need:

One small and one medium saucepans


  • 2 cups dried (250g) cannellini beans
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small whole garlic bulb, halved (or one half if large)
  • 1 small onion halved
  • 15 parsley stalks tied together
  • (leaves picked and chopped as topping)
  • salt & pepper

Fragrant Oil

  • 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 4 sprigs thyme leaves
  • 1/2 bunch (about 6 stalks) sage leaves
  • pinch chilli flakes (opt)
  • lemon rind of 1 lemon or zest
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • lots of black pepper


  • 15g parsley leaves removed, chopped
  • lots of fresh herbs, marjoram, chives, origanum, basil (even purple) and tarragon would work well.


  1. Soak the cannellini beans overnight in plenty of water with the bicarb added. The next morning drain the beans and rinse well.
  2. Add the beans to a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the beans by 3cm, bring to a gentle simmer, and skim any foam from the top. Add the bay leaves, onion and garlic and gently simmer until soft, this will take around 1 hour 20 minutes (depending on how old your beans are), adding more water if the liquid cooks away. Once soft, remove all the aromatics (onion, stalks, bay leaves, garlic) and drain the beans.
  3. Pop the garlic out of their skins and mash, mix with the beans. Season with salt & pepper and add your beans to a deep salad platter.
  4. While the beans are cooking prepare your fragrant oil. In a saucepan add all your oil ingredients and heat the oil very very gently for about 30minutes or until the garlic has turned a pale golden. Ideally you will just see a bit of movement in the oil as it warms, that is enough to infuse the oil. Cool the oil slightly.
  5. Remove the lemon peel from the oil and slice finely add back to the oil and chop the sage leaves. Discard the thyme.
  6. While the oil is infusing lets chop the herbs for the topping and add to the drained beans, mix through.
  7. Pour the oil over the beans and mix well, finish the seasoning with some lemon juice, more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Kitchen Notes:

Fennel Seeds: add the seeds to a small dry frying pan on a medium heat, heat until fragrant (when you can smell the seeds).

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