Tuscan White Beans (a.k.a. Alex's beans)

Beans were introduced into Italy after the discovery of America. The Pope received beans as a gift from Spain upon Christopher Columbus’ return home. White beans are probably the most versatile staple in our pantry! These beans are a great accompaniment to many hearty meat dishes like roasted lamb and pork. Add extra water or stock and they make a wonderful winter soup. Or, you can serve them with penne pasta, a pinch of crushed red pepper and grated Parmesan cheese exactly the way Alex like them! Serve leftovers as a spread on garlic-rubbed toast.

1 (16 ounce) bag of dried navy or great northern beans
6 cups of water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
2 teaspoons salt
4-6 fresh sage leaves
Pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight in 6-8 cups of water. Drain water and replace before cooking. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan. Add garlic and sauté to golden (do not burn or it will taste very bitter.) Add beans, water, salt and sage and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans are soft - about 2 hours.

Stir occasionally and check water level. Remove the sage leaves when they have imparted enough flavor (at one hour or to the end.) You may need to add water if the beans get to dry.  In their final form they should form a gravy and not be too soupy or too gloppy. Drizzle olive oil lightly over beans just before serving. And, always remember to add beans to your grocery list.