“This traditional Tuscan dish is very simple and quick to prepare. The name Uccelletto (from bird) suggests various theories: this dish was served with game, or the same ingredients of garlic and sage were used in game dishes, or it’s because the beans were used instead of meat. Whichever are its origins, it makes a lovely side or main course dish. It’s Italy’s healthier version of the UK’s baked beans. In fact, it is also delicious served on toasted bread, but please make it rustic bread!
To save some time, you can use 2 x 400g (14oz) tins of cannellini beans instead of the dried, if you prefer (see method). ”
Drain and rinse the soaked cannellini beans, then place in a saucepan with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil and cook until tender, about 40–50 minutes – check the cooking time on your bean packet. Drain, reserving about 100ml (3½fl oz) of the cooking water. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add four sage leaves and fry over a medium heat for a minute or so until crispy, then add the garlic and chilli and sweat for a minute.
Add the tomato passata and the reserved bean cooking water (if you are using canned beans, add can juice plus 50ml/3½ tbsp water) and some salt to taste, then reduce the heat, partially cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the cannellini beans and simmer for a further 5 minutes until heated through. If you are using canned beans, add their liquid as well.
Just before the end of the cooking time, toast the bread slices. Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a small frying pan, add the remaining sage leaves and fry over a medium heat for a minute or so until crispy.
Divide the bean mixture between individual bowls, top with the crispy sage and a drizzle of the sage-infused olive oil and serve with the toasted rustic bread.