Borlotti. Pretty, good beans

November 24, 2015

As a child, you were most likely told to not play with your food. As an adult, I can’t think of a better excuse to procrastinate.

Fresh borlotti beans are wondrous things. They not only taste good, they are gorgeous to look at. As if their magenta-streaked pods aren’t attractive enough, the beans inside give you a double dose of colour. Pity then that they turn light, muddy brown when cooked. But before they changed to drab, I wanted to capture them and test my rusty watercolour skills. The result is not a Caravaggio, but I’ve got plenty of time …

borlotti beans in shells


This season – like all good Italians – I’ve made the most of them in salads, stews, dips and the popular soup pasta e fagioli – or as Dean Martin called it in the song That’s Amore: ‘pasta fazool’. They’re usually late summer to late autumn eating but I found some last week and I wasn’t going to query where they came from – they looked fresh so I snapped them up. 

Trawling online sites for borlotti bean inspiration, I found a new way with them. If you don’t like anchovies, look away now! The recipe is called Fagioli alla veneta and is a tasty cold salad from the Veneto region in north-eastern Italy. (It’s translated into wonky English but still understandable.)

I love shelling fresh borlotti beans, but if you prefer to buy them ready to use, they are available at selected greengrocers in containers and marketed as ‘edible gems’. That name was a good enough reason for me to play around with them post-shelling. Here’s the result: no strings attached!


borlotti bean necklace


Sydney-based restaurateur Steve Manfredi also does a nice dish of braised borlotti with tomato, celery hearts and oregano.






  1. I love fresh borlotti beans – my father-in-law grows them and I always look forward to a delivery!

    • I might have tried growing them as a kid (can’t remember) but not lately as our veggie patch is not very big. But I’m good at buying them. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Wonderful beans when I can get them. Not easy to find in my “neck of the woods”.The Fagioli alla veneta looks like a great recipe.

    • Tinned borlotti beans are OK, but there’s nothing like the fresh ones. Yes, do try the recipe. The flavours go together beautifully.

  3. Ciao Ambra! Living in the US and growing up in a non-Italian community I don’t remember borlotti beans. But I am now on the hunt for some fresh beans so I can try a recipe. I love trying new foods that I’ve missed out on. BTW — your watercolor — Ode to Borlotti looks great to me. I’d hang it on my wall 🙂 Hope all is well with you.

    • I believe they’re very similar (if not the same) to cranberry beans – as they’re known in the US. It’s early days yet with the watercolours (rekindling my skills after 25 years!) but thanks for the compliment. All OK here – hope you and yours too.

  4. Lovely acquerello! Complementi

    • Grazie mille! It’s been a very long time since I picked up the acquerelli paints and brushes, but I’m loving it and it’s slowly coming back to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: