Perfect for bonfire night! These beans are rich and hearty, the flavours really benefit from the slow cook and they are worth the wait. A recipe for a Sunday afternoon, or for a big group of friends – they go beautifully with a baked ham. I used bacon stock which worked really well but if you don’t have it you can just use water. I also cheated and used tinned beans, shhh (you can soak them overnight if you prefer of course). They taste even better with time so keep some for mid week with jacket potatoes.
150g cubed pancetta
500g cannellini beans
1 small onion chopped very finely (in a processor if possible)
2 garlic cloves also finely chopped
200ml tomato passata
200ml bacon stock
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
2 and a half tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
Brown the pancetta until the fat releases and then remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. Lower the heat and soften the finely chopped onion and garlic in the pancetta fat for about 5 minutes. Add the smoked paprika and then the passata, stock and brown sugar. Once the sauce is simmering, add the beans, the pancetta, a bay leaf and the star anise and bring back to simmering.
Now transfer the beans to a preheated oven at 150° I use a casserole so I just put a lid on, you may need to transfer to an oven proof dish at this stage but make sure the beans are covered. Bake for 3 hours, stirring once or twice. At the end add salt and pepper to your taste – keep the salt to the end as adding it earlier can cause the beans to toughen.