The Tuna and White Bean Salad is a classical Italian dish. I have been making this salad for more than 10 years now and it evolved a little bit since my first trials in 2005. I always have the ingredients on hand (dried white beans and tuna cans are stocked in the pantry) and the rest is easily found in my Mediterranean kitchen. I usually add some lemon juice and capers to brighten up the beans. I serve the Tuna and White Bean Salad by itself with crusty bread as a meal or part of a salad spread on a buffet for parties and gatherings. It is always a crowd pleaser. Don’t worry if you have leftovers as it tastes better the next day.
I am all in for cooking shortcuts but this dish needs to start with dried white beans and not canned. The tuna is already soft and you need the salad to have some texture and contrast. e some texture and beans to hold their shape. Canned beans can be very mushy and might ruin the texture part of your dish.
I am not a big fan of raw red onions so I prefer to pickle them a little bit before integrating them to a recipe. I find them to be way more interesting in their pickled form and less sharp on the palate.
Tuna & White Bean Salad
Recipe credits: Rafaella Sargi
Serves 4 as a side
1 cup dried white beans (Cannellini or even smaller like Navy Beans)
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
1/4 cup pickled red onion (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers (optional)
10 oz (280 g) canned tuna (2 regular cans)
Parsley and Thyme for serving
Pickled Red Onions
Slice very thinly 1/2 of a red onion and set aside.
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt in two tablespoons of boiling water. Add 2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar and mix (you can use, red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar as well). Add the red onion slices and gently combine. Let it rest and mix from time to time…
Prep all the ingredients.
You will need one big bowl, plastic wrap, a colander, and a medium pot,
The night before: place the beans in a large bowl with triple their volume of water. Cover and let it stand overnight. It will allow the beans to rehydrate.
On the following day: drain the soaking water and rinse the beans. Put the beans in a pot with room temperature water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it cook for 30 minutes. Drain the water out, rinse the beans and return them to the pot (getting rid of the first “boiling” water helps with the digestion according to my mom!).
Return the semi-cooked beans to the pot, with 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, cover with water and bring back to a boil, lower the heat and let it cook until completely cooked through but not mushy. You want the beans to hold their shape. Once they reached the right consistency, disregard the bay leaf and whole garlic clove and drain
Meanwhile, in a shallow serving bowl, put the grated garlic and add the warm beans on top (it will help cook the garlic just a little bit; keeping the flavor and getting rid of its sharpness. I use this trick very often. Love it!! ok… let’s get back to the recipe!). Add half of the pickled onions, the herbs, 1/4 cup of the extra virgin olive oil, and lemon juice. Mix gently, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Before serving, add the tuna, capers (if using)*, the rest of the olive oil, the rest of the pickled onions, a little bit of sea slat and freshly ground black pepper. Mix gently. Taste and correct seasoning if need be.
*You want to be careful when salting if you are using capers. Add salt a little a a time and taste,… you can always add more if needed.