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! And, obviously, it is easy to double or treble the recipe if you’re expecting more dinner guests, or you just feel extra-hungry.
Makes enough for 4 persons as an antipasto
- One can of cannellini beans
- One can of tunafish in olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- A few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
- The juice of half a lemon
- A good glug of best-quality, extra virgin olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
- Salt and pepper
Pour the beans into a colander and rinse them. Toss the colander around to drain the beans well.
Mix the beans and tunafish in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. If it’s a little dry, add more oil. Adjust for seasoning.
You can serve this immediately or make ahead.
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.