This is a simple yet flavorful dish of beans and tomatoes that is hearty enough for a vegetarian main dish. Actually, we fed this to people who are definitely not vegetarians, and they loved it as a dinner dish too. The recipe calls for bacon, which we skipped in favor of another fat, and you could easily use butter or even olive oil instead.
The beans get cooked twice: they are soaked overnight and then cooked with some aromatics and herbs. Meanwhile, you make a rich tomato sauce, and then you simmer the mostly-cooked beans in that sauce. It's a little labor-intensive in that sense, but it's still mostly hands-off, and it makes a great big batch.
We did make a couple of changes.
• We didn't have bacon, so we used some leftover duck fat. This wasn't as smoky as the bacon, though, so at the very end of cooking we felt that the beans still needed something. We added a heaping tablespoons of smoked paprika, and this was the perfect finishing note. If you are making this vegetarian, using a non-animal fat for the tomato sauce, we really recommend that paprika or even chipotle powder to give the sauce some smoky depth.
• Also, we didn't have navy beans; we used Great Northern beans, which are quite similar. They are white beans and thin skinned, so they cooked fast.
• Get the recipe: Slow-Cooked Tomato and Herb White Beans at Gourmet
Have you made beans yet this fall?
Related: How to Cook Beans
(Images: Faith Durand)