Gigantes Plaki/White Beans Cooked with Tomatoes
Gigantes are very large dried white beans, like a lima or navy bean only larger—gigantic. Sometimes in specialty stores you can find them (usually quite expensive) imported from Greece, but when you can’t, substitute the largest dried white bean available. This is a very popular dish and there are many recipes for it, but I like this method best.
Gigantes plaki is eaten year round but is especially associated with Clean Monday, the beginning of Lent, before Easter. It could be served with plain rice as a main dish, or as a side dish on its own.
- 1 lb. white beans, soaked overnight
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 large can tomatoes (I use good-quality whole Italian canned tomatoes and break them up with my hands) or 1 ½ pound large ripe tomatoes and their juice, peeled and chopped or grated on the box grater
- ½ fresh red sweet pepper, finely chopped
- 1 cup celery, roughly chopped
- 1 cup carrots, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoonful oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- Drain and rinse the beans, put them in a large pan, and add enough water to cover them by a couple inches. Bring the water to a boil, lower it to a simmer, and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Continue to simmer until the beans are completely cooked. This could take as little as 40 minutes or quite a bit longer, depending entirely on the beans.
- While the beans are cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil and sauté the onions for a minute or two, and then add the chopped carrots and celery along with the oregano and enough salt to bring up the flavor; continue to sauté until the vegetables are softened. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and adjust the salt. Simmer the sauce for just a minute or two and then take it off the heat.
- Preheat the oven to 350, and when the beans have finished cooking, drain them, reserving some of the water. Put the beans in an ovenproof pan, add the tomato sauce and, if needed, some of the reserved liquid to cover them. Stir and once again taste for salt, add pepper if you like, and if necessary add a little more olive oil.
- Bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or more, until the sauce is thickened.
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