One of the most popular flavours of Neapolitan cooking is peperoncino, the local red chillies that you will see threaded along lines of string and hung across the windows of the teeny tiny domestic kitchens of Naples, and all along the Amalfi Coast, in order to dry in the sun. They are used throughout the year to add a punchy kick (they are often referred to as viagra naturale) to tomato sauces and ragùs. I discovered this beautiful little dish of creamy cannellini beans in a basic unkindly lit restaurant high up in the Quartieri Spagnoli where it was served up alongside thick slices of lightly toasted salty bread rubbed with fresh garlic, and the obligatory aria from a Puccini opera. I loved it so much that I decided to recreate it as one of the side dishes at my Italian-inspired Supper Club earlier this month. Like most Italian recipes this is a deceptively simple one but the addition of several aromatics – fragrant rosemary, gutsy garlic and a punchy kick of peperoncino – make for a surprisingly satisfying dish especially on cooler days.
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
Half a bunch of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
1 tsp red peperoncini (you can also use regular dried chilli flakes), plus extra for serving
x2 400 g tins of cannellini beans with their cooking liquor
Half a bunch of fresh parsley, finely sliced
Red wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
How I make it
In a large pan, heat a generous glug of olive oil and gently fry the garlic, rosemary leaves and chilli taking care not to burn them.
When the garlic is golden at the edges, tip in the tinned beans,along with their cooking liquor and allow everything to simmer for around five minutes.
Add a splash of red wine vinegar, the lemon juice and then season to your taste.
Turn out into a pretty bowl and garnish with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of chilli.