Here’s a dish that really is just about as simple as you can get. If you can open a can, you can can make this salad: mix one can of cannellini beans, washed and well drained, with one can of tuna packed in olive oil. Add chopped onion or scallion, parsley, salt, pepper, the juice of half a lemon and a generous amount of best quality olive oil, enough to coat the beans well. Toss well. If it’s a little dry, add more oil. Adjust for seasoning.
You can serve this immediately or make ahead.
NOTES: The choice of tuna is pretty crucial here. You want tuna packed in olive oil. If you are feeling extravagant, there are some imported tuna of the ventresca type–fillets of tuna bell–that are wonderful but quite expensive. Otherwise, Cento, Progresso, Ortiz and Genova brands are all fine choices. If you can find Sicilian yellow fin tuna, which is wonderful, and if you’re willing to shell out $6 a can (plus shipping), that’s the best choice of all.
Of course, the ‘real’ recipe calls for dried cannellini beans that you will have soaked and cooked yourself. For special occasions, it’s the best, but for an everyday quick meal, canned beans will do just fine. Be sure to wash off the can juice, however, as it will otherwise give the salad an off taste. (You should do that whenever you use canned beans, btw.) I’ve never tried it, but I have to suppose that other beans would make for an interesting variation, chickpeas and tuna being a fairly common one in Italy. I sometimes add chopped tomato, in season, which makes for a pleasant change
The traditional recipe, which is originally from Tuscany, calls for red onions (which are typical of Tuscan cooking). They are your first and most authentic choice, but the mild flavor of white onions is also quite nice. Scallions aren’t bad either (and that’s what we had on hand tonight). You can use regular yellow onions in a pinch, but their taste is a bit too harsh to eat raw–soak them in cold water to remove some of the harshness and pat dry before adding them to the salad.
Fagioli e tonno is generally considered an antipasto, but we often have it as a main course for a light supper in warm weather. You can serve it just as is or over a bed of lettuce. It also is a nice component in a buffet.