picture of rice and beans, a traditional Italian dish

This is the third in a series of posts about traditional, Depression-era Italian dishes which were introduced to me by my wife’s family when we were dating

Perfect for a cold, rainy night, Rice and Beans is a stick-to-your-ribs meal that’s equal parts simple and satisfying. My wife’s paternal grandmother first served me this dish in the kitchen of her home on Hoosick Street in Troy, NY about 35 years ago.  Sprinkle some quality parmigiano-reggiano on top, serve it with some good bread and butter, and equip yourself with a glass – or two – of your favorite wine…  and you’ve got good, simple dining at its best.  Give it a try – not only is it delicious, it’s easy to make and frugal.  Mangia!

Don’t skimp on the seasoning; serve – if you wish – with a medium bodied white or red wine.


  • 2 cans Northern White or cannelloni beans
  • 1 15oz. can, tomato sauce
  • 1 cup Uncle Ben’s “Original” long grain white rice (sorry; this doesn’t sound very traditional, but is in the interest of convenience)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2-3 tbs. olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

The Recipe:

  • Fry garlic in oil over medium heat; discard after browned, retaining oil in pan
  • Add tomato sauce and simmer for about 5-10 minutes
  • Add the two cans of beans with liquid; continue cooking
  • Meanwhile, cook rice according to directions (we use 1 cup for 4 servings)
  • When rice is cooked, combine all ingredients; add salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve with parmigiano cheese if desired (yes!!)

Serves 3-4

To visit the first in this series, Broccoli & Macaroni, click here; the second, Pasta & Peas, click here.

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4 Comments on Traditional Italian Dish #3: Rice and Beans – frugal, meatless, delicious!

  1. Michael W. says:

    So –

    If you are cooking the rice separately (so you don’t have to “match” cooking times between beans and rice), you can experiment with many other kinds of rice, particularly if you have a rice cooker like we do?

    This recipe sounds good. I’m going to try it.

    Do you live near a Trader Joes – have you tried their “Marinara Sauce” in the green can, it’s like tomato sauce but a little different – how do you think that would work here?

    BTW, I remember from my old college vegetarian days, that beans and rice, together, make a complete protein. Not a LOT of protein, but usually enough. From modern dietary reports, we now know that the fiber in beans is super for us, and that tomato sauce contains lupene (?) another fantastic micro-nutrient.

    Are there any cheeses you recommend to eat on the side with this?


  2. Kevin says:


    No Trader Joe’s around here…. so no experience with their marinara sauce – but give it a shot!

    This is healthy, despite the fact that it doesn’t have a cup of olive oil in the recipe :-)

    As for cheese, I am a huge fan of quality parmigiano-reggiano: not the junk they sell in most supermarkets, but the good stuff ($12+ per pound) sold in Italian markets or from iGourmet.com (Having said that, iGourmet’s shipping charges are criminal; see if a friend wants to go in on a larger order. For small $$ amount orders, it’s prohibitive.) If you can find some, it’s absolutely extraordinary.

    Thanks for the comment!



  3. Nancy says:

    when you say a can of tomato sauce are you suggesting Del Monte’s ? I know thats an old time Italian favorite in Brooklyn…


    Kevin Reply:

    I’m not suggesting any particular brand.


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