Middle Eastern beans cooked in tomato sauce

Minor (very minor) variations of this recipe are made right across the Middle East, where this dish is adored, and often associated with memories of childhood. In this respect and, to an extent, in the similarity of its texture, this is much like a precursor to British baked beans from a tin, but that is where the comparison ends. This is SO much tastier than the tinned stuff. I've chosen to use the Turkish name for it: fasulye ("fa-soo-lia").

How does it differ from my Beans in Tomato Sauce recipe? It uses cannellini beans (white kidney beans), which are soaked overnight but not precooked. Instead they cook in the tomato sauce itself, which is made from tomato puree, and produces a much smoother texture than my other recipe's chunky one. It is exceedingly simple to make: the key is to caramelize the tomato puree before adding the beans and the water. It's also extremely cheap to make, cheaper than buying baked beans.

Often these are served with spring onions for dipping; I much prefer some crusty baguette.

Serves 3 - 4 as a main (the photo above shows a serving for 4); 6 - 8 as a side dish.


1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight

1 tablespoon oil

1 1/2 onions, finely chopped

2 1/2 tablespoons tomato puree (tomato paste)

1 teaspoon salt

a VERY scant 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 3/4 cups of water



Soften the onions in the oil over a medium heat until they become translucent. Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes for the paste to caramelize, stirring occasionally. If it splits (when streaks of red oil form on top), all the better!


Stir in the salt and pepper, add the drained, rinsed cannellini beans, and the 2 3/4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, pop on a lid, and reduce the heat to low so that the beans can simmer for an hour. Stir occasionally.


Check the beans and the sauce towards the end of the cooking time. Are the beans gorgeously soft? If not, they may require longer cooking. Is the sauce too thick? Add a little water to loosen it. This batch took over one and a half hours to cook, and needed several additions of water (though mine are typically ready by the 50 minute mark). Sauce too thin? Remove the lid to allow it to reduce.

Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.

Did you know?

You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series:

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