My husband, Paul, and I were vacationing in Rome about 10 years ago. We had engaged in conversation with a local couple and asked them where they liked to eat. They recommended a casual neighborhood restaurant within walking distance of the hotel we were staying at.
We followed their directions to a dark shuttered restaurant that didn’t even seem open. We weren’t sure we had the right place since we spoke little Italian and the nice local couple spoke little English. We stepped inside and found a small warm dining room with perhaps 6 or 8 tables. I felt like I had walked into someone’s home. The owner-waiter (who also spoke little English) approached us so welcomingly; he made us feel as though we were long time customers.
Menus arrived and I ordered bistecca romane (steak) and Paul ordered fagioli bianchi (white beans). I tried to convince Paul to order something a little more exciting than white beans but his decision was made. While the steak was indeed delicious, my dear husband had chosen wisely. The white beans were fantastic; beautiful, creamy, glistening with olive oil and flecked green with fresh herbs. I have been trying to replicate that dish for 10 years and have not quite mastered it. Based on that memory I have come up with this recipe that has become a favorite in our home. I hope you enjoy it too.
For the Shrimp:
1 dozen large shrimp – shelled and deveined, tails left on
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ small lemon
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary – finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.
For the Cannellini Beans:
4 oz pancetta –diced
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 medium shallot – chopped
4-6 cloves roasted garlic (depending on size of garlic and personal preference) – see note below
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup white wine
2 – 15 oz. cans cannellini beans – drained and rinsed
¼ cup parsley – chopped, plus 2 teaspoons for garnish
¼ teaspoon salt
5 oz. arugula – roughly chopped
½ cup parmesan cheese – grated, plus 4 Tablespoons for serving
1. In a large non-stick skillet, cook diced pancetta in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until crisp, about 5-6 minutes.
2. Remove pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low; add butter to the same pan and sauté chopped shallot until tender, about 1-2 minutes.
4. Add roasted garlic and cook approximately 1 minute stirring and mashing garlic.
5. Stir in chicken broth and white wine and reduce slightly, about 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the cannellini beans and the chopped parsley to the pan, season with salt and simmer until the beans are heated through.
7. Add the arugula, parmesan cheese and 2/3 of the crisp pancetta to the pan, stir and cover until the arugula wilts; keep warm on very low heat.
8. Meanwhile heat a grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Skewer the shrimp and grill for about 2-3 minutes per side.
9. Divide the bean mixture between 4 serving dishes, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese and crisp pancetta. Top with 3 shrimp per serving. Garnish the dish with the remaining chopped parsley.