A Summer Casserole for Al Fresco Eating
Summer doesn’t have to be all about salads, cold meat and cheese platters and today’s recipe for Rustic Tuscan Bean Casserole with Grana Padano and Cheese Croutons is perfect for any Al Fresco dinner or for a comforting but light family luncheon dish. Tinned Italian beans are given a makeover when they are mixed with cherry tomatoes before being topped with crusty country bread croutons with Grana Padano cheese. The casserole is then baked until the beans are bubbling hot and the Grana Padano has melted into a wonderful golden crust.
Serve this bean casserole with a bowl of truffle oil and more crusty bread for a wholesome and satisfying meal, and if the weather is being unkind, then why not enjoy the beans with a pile of fluffy mashed potatoes made with truffle oil for a rainy summer’s day Italian feast. The recipe is “meat free”, but you can add pre-browned sausages or some crispy bacon lardons for a meaty kick. I’ve also enjoyed this fabulous meal with a big seasonal salad too, it’s so versatile, and the Grana Padano cheese adds a special touch and kicks it up a notch on the flavour front too.
I’ve used Grana Padano cheese in my cooking (and baking) for many years now, as I love the flavour and the fact that you can choose from three “vintages”; you can choose from the milder Grana Padano 9 month cheese for the salads and for sprinkling on pasta, the more mature Grana Padano 16 month cheese for general baking and cooking, and my personal favourite, the Grana Padano “Riserva” which has been aged for a minimum of 20 months, which is very robust and nutty with a wonderful texture and is amazing when served on the cheese board (with wine) or when used in rustic recipes such as these Tuscan Beans.
The cheese has a fascinating history too! Created by the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle in the 12th century, it is still made throughout the Po River Valley in North-Eastern Italy. The cheese is made from unpasteurised, semi-skimmed cow’s milk, and at the end of the cheese making process, Grana Padano develops a firm, thick and deeply straw-coloured rind protecting the fragrant, dry, flaking interior. “Grana” means “grainy” in Italian which is reflected in the fine granular texture with an intensely sweet flavour. As Grana Padano ages, the flavours become pronounced, savoury and complex and the texture becomes more crumbly.
I ALWAYS have a block of each vintage in the fridge, and if you have a micro plane grater, you can grate the cheese over any dish you cook with ease, which is MUCH better than buying re-grated cheese. Plus, Grana Padano cheese is PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) which means you can always be assured of the cheeses quality and provenance, as it has to be made in the area that has been designated for the cheese making. I use it in scones, quiches, on toast, with pasta, in sauces and as a gratin topping; it’s so versatile with a unique texture and flavour.
Today’s recipe for Rustic Tuscan Bean Casserole with Grana Padano and Cheese Croutons is my FIRST recipe in collaboration with Grana Padano cheese, and there will be two more Italian style recipes using Grana Padano cheese to follow, so keep popping back to see what I have been cooking up in my kitchen! The recipe is shared below and I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we did if you make it. Karen
Disclaimer: Collaborative post with Grana Padano