Fagioli e tonno (White Bean and Tuna Salad)

Frankantipasti, Toscana41 Comments

Fagioli e tonno (White Bean and Tuna Salad)

Fagioli e tonno, or White Bean and Tuna Salad, is just about as quick and simple a dish as you can make. If you can open a can, you can make this salad. And it’s easy to double or treble the recipe if you’re expecting more dinner guests, or you just feel extra-hungry.

Generally classified as an antipasto, this salad is a fixture on summer cookout and buffet tables. In our house, we often have it as a main course for a light supper in warm weather, a reliable stand-by when I don’t have the time or just don’t feeling like doing any real cooking.

Ingredients

Makes enough for 4 persons as an antipasto or 2 as a light main

  • One large can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, or about 500g/1 lb boiled bean
  • One can of tunafish in olive oil, drained
  • 1/2 medium 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

Directions

Pour the beans into a colander and rinse them thoroughly. Allow the beans to  drain well.

In a large bowl, mix the beans with the tunafish, which you will have drained and broken up into chunks with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. If the mixture is a little dry, add more oil. Adjust for seasoning.

Serve, if you like on a bed of tender lettuce or, as pictured here, topped with a light sprinkling of additional onion and parsley for color.

Fagioli e tonno (White Bean and Tuna Salad)

Notes on Fagioli e tonno

The choice of tuna is pretty crucial here.  For starters, you’ll want tuna packed in olive oil. If you are feeling extravagant, there are some imported tuna of the ventresca type—fillets of tuna belly—that are wonderful if expensive. Where I live, Ortiz from Spain is a widely available and high quality brand. Otherwise, supermarket brands like Cento, Progresso and Genova are all fine choices. If you can find Sicilian yellowfin tuna, which is wonderful, and if you’re willing to shell out for it, may be the best choice of all. 

The ‘real’ recipe for fagioli e tonno calls for dried cannellini beans that you will have soaked and cooked yourself. It’s easily done if you have the time, and they’re certainly the best choice for special occasions, but for an everyday quick meal, canned beans will do just fine. Just be sure to rinse the beans well before using to eliminate the can juices, which give the beans an off taste. (You should do that whenever you use canned beans.)

Other beans would make for an interesting variation, chickpeas and tuna being a fairly common one in Italy. I’m very partial to switching out both main ingredients in my Chickpea and Sardine Salad. And I sometimes add chopped tomato, in season, which makes for a pleasant change. 

The traditional recipe for fagioli e tonno, which is originally from Tuscany, calls for red onionstypical of Tuscan cooking. They are your first and most authentic choice, and they add mellow flavor and a nice bit of color to an otherwise rather monochrome dish. But the mild flavor of white onions is also quite nice. Scallions aren’t bad either. You can use regular yellow onions in a pinch. But since their taste is a bit too harsh to eat raw, soak them in abundant cold water for about 10-15 minutes to remove some of the harshness and pat dry before adding them to  the mixing bowl.

Making ahead

You can serve fagioli e tonno immediately or make it ahead. But as the onion tends to turn sharper with time, this isn’t a dish that I’d make more than say, a few hours ahead. If you refrigerate it, let it return to room temperature before serving.

Post Scriptum

The Fagioli e tonnoforegoing is a re-blog of the very first recipe post I wrote for Memorie di Angelina back in June 2009. It’s been slightly edited and re-photographed. I’ve learned a bit about blogging in these past 11 years, and in particular about food photography. At the risk of embarassing myself, you can see the original photograph for this post at the left. Like all my other posts at the time, it was taken on the fly with a cell phone camera. Doesn’t look too appetizing, does it? And yet I can assure you it was every bit as tasty then as the plate I photographed for this new post. Shows you the power of imagery—a lesson I only learned after I was blogging for some time.

Anyway, some of my favorite recipes can be found in those old posts, so I thought it’d be a good idea to update them and re-share them with you every once in a while.  Enjoy!

Fagioli e tonno

White Bean and Tuna Salad
Total Time5 mins
Course: Antipasto
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: quick

Ingredients

  • 1 large can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, or about 500g/1 lb boiled beans
  • 1 can tunafish in olive oil drained
  • 1/2 medium red onion chopped
  • A few sprigs of parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1/3 cup 75 ml best-quality, extra virgin olive oil or to taste
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Pour the beans into a colander and rinse them thoroughly. Allow the beans to  drain well.
  • In a large bowl, mix the beans with the tunafish, which you will have drained and broken up into chunks with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. If the mixture is a little dry, add more oil. Adjust for seasoning.
  • Serve, if you like on a bed of tender lettuce or topped with a light sprinkling of additional onion and parsley for color.

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41 Comments on “Fagioli e tonno (White Bean and Tuna Salad)”

  1. This has become a favorite lunchtime meal ever since we started working from home due to Covid. Thank you for posting (and updating your post) about this dish.

  2. Hey Frank, really love this dish and have made it often over the years — depending how I’m feeling, I will emulsify a few anchovies in the olive oil and add a small pinch of pepperoncino flakes; sometimes adding a small bunch of capers too. In the summer love your suggestion about ripe tomatoes too. Thanks, really love your posts.

    1. I really like the idea of slipping a few anchovies into this dish. I’ll have to try that next time! Thanks for the kind words, John!

  3. Thank you for the great recipe. I made this as written and loved it. I also made it a second time, using canned chicken, as my wife detests tuna. It was equally as good. Thank you for the great blog. Victor

  4. Hi, it is 96 degrees in NJ today so I will be making this dish for dinner. We love tuna and have made many of your dishes for dinner and family parties – baked tuna sformato; tuna stuffed peppers; tonnato sauce; pasta with tuna sauce (my grandma and mother made this one often).
    Thank you for the wonderful blog and your great photos, both old and new.
    My family is from Avigliano, near Potenza.
    Stay safe, Donna

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Donna! And for your readership over the years. This really is an ideal dish for the “dog days” of summer.

  5. Made this to take with me on a fishing trip over the weekend. Ate it with Ritz crackers and it really hit the spot.

  6. A great re-post Frank. This is a classic summer favorite in these parts. Although, I’ve not made it the traditional Italian way. The Swedish version is very similar, except we don’t add onion and we add Herbes de Provence and a splash of red wine vinegar. We’ll be giving yours a try very soon. Italian tuna packed in olive oil is the best. But, indeed a treat for us as it’s about twice the cost of our best Swedish brand.

    1. And I wonder how the Swedish brands compare? If they’re packed in oil they may well do fine without breaking the bank… ?

  7. Dan and I loved the Bean and Tuna salad had it as our main meal. Tasty, light and delicious. Our folks came from Barile, Potenza Italy. Thank you again for great recipes. Louise

  8. I tend to like to start with dried bean, so a dish like this takes a bit longer for me, but still – so simple, elegant, hearty, and delicious. I love you cell phone photograph, but yes, no comparison to the more recent ones!

  9. I saw this one on Instagram last night, and I immediately wanted it! I love how simple this recipe is – it keeps with the tradition of many Italian recipes in that way. So simple, yet so good! I might just need to add canned tuna to the shopping list this week! Also, excellent job on the re-post of this one. That was fun to see the side-by-side comparison. Also, I appreciate your use of the “glug” of olive oil. 🙂

    1. Thanks, David! It drives some readers crazy when I use those terms like “glug” or “pinch”, but that’s me…

  10. This is one of my all time favorite salads. I always order it if I see it on a menu, and make a similar version to yours often. And yes, the power of imagery is amazing. Your photos are lovely! 🙂 ~Valentina

  11. a firm and regular favourite forever prepared in the same thus classic way ! But does it not sound more exciting and romantic presented your way in Italian . . . best . . .

  12. Also one of our favorites, and your notes about tuna quality are spot on. For this dish, you need the best. The Ortiz ventresca is what we love to use. Because all raw onion is too harsh for me, I give it a really quick sauté and it works just perfectly.

    Love the new photo — amazing we we can learn in a decade!

    1. Ortiz is a fabulous brand. Even if it isn’t Italian… 😉 Interesting little “trick” for dealing with the onion. Thanks for sharing!

  13. I love this dish! One that we make at least once a month during warm weather (and sometimes in winter, too). Quick, easy, extremely tasty — what’s not to like? Glad you brought this post back — I wasn’t reading you 11 years ago, and although I sometimes trawl through your archives, I know there’s good stuff I’m missing. Anyway, thanks for this.

    1. You’re welcome, John! I’m sure you’re not alone when it comes to those old posts, even though I do try to make every post accessible, the older ones do tend to get lost after so much time. Which is why I’ve decided to re-blog the best ones, the one that deserve more attention imho. This one, for example, was getting very little traffic, but now it seems to be going viral… !

  14. We discovered a wonderful tuna with avocado dish while wintering in Spain earlier this year, it has become a lunch staple. I can see this one making the cut too.
    My blog has certainly changed over 13 years, particularly the photos. It’s fun to see the progression though.

  15. I have this all the time because I do intermittent fasting so my 500 calorie meal is always something full of protein. Last time I made it, I make it exactly like you, except instead of the lemon juice I add lots of wine vinegar (I am a vinegar fiend!) Fabulous recipe that needs to be shared far and wide! 🙂

    1. Definitely. And funny you should mention it, since I also follow intermittent fasting and use this dish for my “lean” days. Great minds think alike… 😇

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