I knew I already loved pasta and cheese and gelato when I moved to Italy, but what I discovered while living there was that I loved beans. That's because I found the one bean that finally felt as hearty as meat. As someone who was once a vegetarian and had eaten a lot of beans in her lifetime, I'd never felt satisfied with them — even nubby chickpeas don't have that heft that meat does.
While perusing the Italian grocery store for cannellini beans one day, however, I stumbled upon giant white beans, and I've never looked back.
Why Giant White Beans Are the Heartiest Beans Around
I am referring to these meaty beans as simply giant white beans, as they fall under many different names. The Italians call them corona beans; the Greeks call them gigante beans. You'll also sometimes find them labeled as butter beans. They all, in fact, stem from the good ol' lima bean.
What makes them stand out from your cannellini and kidney beans is their size — they can easily cook up to be about an inch in diameter, depending on the variety. Their extra-large interior is creamy yet also quite starchy, which allows them to have that bite and chew that many other beans lack.
These big beans can be hard to find canned, but are easily available dried, particularly through quality bean purveyors, such as Rancho Gordo. Use them in a hearty vegetarian stew, toss them to make a satisfying bean salad, or serve them my favorite way, simply tossed with warm tomato sauce and spooned over creamy polenta.
Related: How To Cook Beans on the Stove