Tag Archives: Borlotti Beans

IOTA FROM TRIESTE, Italy made with smoked pork, sauerkraut, borlotti beans-Post 2

It is winter in Melbourne and time to cook Iota again.

Smoked pork, sauerkraut, borlotti beans? Italian you say?


Yes, and it demonstrates just how regional Italian cuisine can be.

Iota is an extremely hearty soup from Trieste, the city where I grew up as a child until I came to Australia.

Details and recipe for Iota (a Very Thick Soup From Trieste)

See also Gulasch (Goulash As Made in Trieste)

Finish the one course Iota with a salad or two and you have a complete meal.In Trieste it would be matovilc/matovilch:

Salad Green: Matovilc, Also Called Lamb’s Lettuce and Mâche  or radicchio Triestino, small-soft-leaf radicchio or ruccola ( rocket), each leaf  picked separately ( as my father did in his small vegetable garden in Adelaide).
I have never seen radicchio Triestino for sale, but I do pretty well in the vegetable department.

In my kitchen, every meal is accompanied with large amounts of vegetables.  On this occasion I used these vegetables. Notice the pale coloured beetroot (I also cook the leaves like spinach) and next to the red radicchio is the head of speckled, pale radicchio (radicchio biondo= blonde/blond).



PASTA E FAGIOLI (Thick bean soup with pasta)

These colourful beans are fresh borlotti; their pods look even more amazing. They are not in season in Victoria, they are coming from Queensland, but I bought some last week at Stall 61-63 in The Queen Victoria Market – this is where I buy all of my Italian vegetables. In Italy, when the fresh beans are available they are considered to be a treat.

Probably every region of Italy has a version of pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) or minestra (soup) di fagioli. It is called pasta e fasoi in Trieste, pasta e facioli in Calabria, pasta ca fasola in Sicily and mnestra di fasö in Piedmont; the list goes on.

There may be a slight difference between the two dishes in the amount of liquid used, but they are both thick soups, and in fact so thick that they are also referred to as wet pasta dishes.

This version of the recipe is pretty universal all over Italy, but probably the greatest variation is that in various parts of Italy the cook places sufficient liquid in the soup to cook the pasta in it, whereas in other regions the pasta is cooked separately, drained and dressed with the cooked beans. Rice instead of pasta is more commonly used in the north of Italy.

Not every greengrocer sells fresh borlotti nor are they always in season but dry borlotti  (soaked overnight)are also widely used for this dish. Do not add salt to the water when cooking dry pulses – it makes them tough.

Fresh borlotti beans do not need to be soaked, but lose their colour when cooked. Soak beans in cold water overnight – they will swell so it is important to put them in plenty of water.

1 kilo of fresh beans will shelled left me with 450g; this is sufficient quantity for a plate of soup for 2-3 people.
Wet pasta dishes with pulses are commonly cooked plain and presented with a drizzle of oil.
borlotti beans, shelled, 450g
carrots, 2 finely sliced
celery stalks, 2 in bite-sized slices
fresh bay leaves, 2
short pasta, 300 – 400g ( depending on how wet you like the soup)
onion, 1 finely chbut preferably keep them whole – this will depend on how fresh the dried beans are, but fresh borlotti will take much less cooking time. Add salt to taste.
Cook the pasta.
Either add more water to the pan and cook the pasta in the soup or cook the pasta separately – I like to add stock or water with a good stock cube, salt and freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Drain the beans if they have been soaking.
Place sufficient water to cover the pulses and add the carrot, the tomato, celery and bay leaves (this will be the broth).
Bring the soup to the boil. Add the parsley. Cook the pulses until soft (20– 40 mins), but preferably keep them whole – this will depend on how fresh the dried beans are, but fresh borlotti will take much less cooking time. Add salt to taste.
Cook the pasta.
Either add more water to the pan and cook the pasta in the soup or cook the pasta separately – I like to add stock or water with a good stock cube at this stage and cook the pasta in the soup.If you are cooking the pasta separately combine the cooked pasta and use the soup to dress the pasta.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper or chili flakes (as is more common in the south of Italy) and serve.
I sometimes like to garnish this soup with a soffritto:
Heat about ¾ cup of olive oil in a wide pan, add a clove of finely chopped garlic and the parsley (use the parsley in the soffritto instead of cooking it in the soup).
Sauté on high heat – it should sizzle and the parsley turn bright green – then pour over the soup.


KOHLRABI and TENERUMI, shared between cultures of Sicily and Vietnam

No, this is not Sicily, I am in Hanoi, in Vietnam. And the Vietnamese eat kohlrabi and the green leaves just like the Sicilians do. In Hanoi, I have yet to have seen them in restaurants so I do not know how they are cooked.


See post:



My relatives who live in Ragusa (south-eastern region of Sicily) make causuneddi (Sicilian). These are small gnocchi shaped pasta which is known by different names in other regions of Sicily, for example, gnocculi, gnucchiteddi, cavati and caviateddi (in Sicilian).

The kohlrabi that my relatives buy are usually much smaller in size and can also be tinged with purple. They are always boiled with the tender leaves sprouting from the centre of the  and some cotenne, strips of pig skin. The pig skin may not sound very appetising, but they really boost the taste.

Although the kohlrabi are in there, they are very hard to see in this photo below. You can however see the causuneddi.

See post for Causuneddi and Gnucchiteddi

Most of the time the Ragusani add borlotti beans as well. The causuneddi are added to the cooked and boiling soup like mixture last of all. It is like a wet pasta dish and very delicious. Of course, it is never bought to the table without having had fragrant extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top.

In Vietnam, I am also eating the leaves and tendrils of some sort of pumpkin. These greens are very much like tenerumi that the Sicilians love. In Sicily they are made into a soup.

Here in Hanoi they are stir fried with garlic and presented as greens.The photo below shows the pumpkin tendrils.

Although the vegetable markets in Hanoi may look different to those in Sicily, the produce is very fresh and like the Sicilians the Vietnamese shop daily.


IOTA (Recipe, a very thick soup from Trieste) Post 1

Iota 1@300

Time to write about Trieste again. Now and again I feel nostalgic for this city where I spent my childhood before coming to Australia.

Today is my son’s birthday and lately he has been cooking iota (he does not live in Melbourne), but he tells me that it is not as good as mine.

Iota is a very old traditional dish from Trieste. It is very strongly flavoured, thick soup and the main ingredients are borlotti beans, sauerkraut and smoked meats. It is not a light dish by any means, but very simple to make and most suited to cold weather. It is usually made at least 1 day before you plan to eat it – the flavours mature and improve with age.


This is not a dish that many would associate with Italy but if you look at the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia it is easier to understand why this recipe is very characteristic of the area around Trieste.

I was last in Trieste in December 2007 and visited an osteria in the old part of Trieste (la citta` vecchia – the port / waterfront, see photo) to specifically eat cucina triestina. When I told the signora that I was reliving the food of my childhood she could not do enough for me – I had iota, sepe in umido (braised cuttle fish) matavilz (lamb’s lettuce salad) and strucolo de pomi( apple strudel). White wine of course (characteristic of the area) and we finished off the meal with a good grappa. Nothing like Sicilian food, but enjoyable for different reasons – nostalgia has a lot to do with it.


I have seen iota written by a variety of spellings: iotta, jota, yota are all pronounced the same way. Some also refer to it as fasoi (beans) and capuzi garbi (sauerkraut).

In some nearby places close to Trieste turnips are sometimes used instead of saurkraut.

There are variations in the making of iota: some add smoked sausages (as I always do) some parsley, and some a little barley – the texture of barley is good.

I always buy my sausages from a Polish or German butcher. When I lived in Adelaide I used to go to the Polish stall at The Adelaide Market and now, at the Polish stall in the Queen Victoria Market. I also buy good quality saurkraut there.

Most Triestini add flour to thicken this one course meal, but I generally do not do this.



borlotti beans, 250g soaked overnight
potatoes, 250g, peeled and cubed
sauerkraut, 250g
olive oil, ½ cup
bay leaves,3
ham hock or smoked ribs, shanks, 300-400g
pork, smoked sausages made from coarsely ground meat
garlic, 2 chopped
pepper and salt to taste
plain flour, 2 tablespoons


Place beans, salt pork, potatoes and bay leaves in large pot of cold water. Cover ingredients fully.
Simmer slowly (about 1 ½ hours). Add sausages about half way through the cooking.
Remove about half of the beans and potatoes and mash them. Add salt and pepper to taste and return them to the pan.

Add the saurkraut and cook for about 30 minutes longer (some Triestini cook them separately, but I see no point in doing this).

To thicken the soup, add the flour and garlic to the hot olive oil – use a separate small pan, stir vigorously and try not to have lumps. This is like making a French roux but using oil instead of butter. Some of the older Triestini use lard.

Happy birthday……. and I am sorry that I am not there to cook it for you.