The beauty of this lovely dish is that it can be prepared in advance and just left to sit at room temperature. The secret is in the tomatoes, cooking them to the point where they are starting to fall apart and are caramelized adds extra flavor and sweetness to the dish. It’s really simple to make and any left overs (if there are any), can be turned into a delicious soup for another meal.
2 c dried cannellini beans, rinsed
1 lb cipolline or small boiling onions (unpeeled)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 lb large tomatoes halved crosswise
1 lb heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c torn, fresh basil leaves for garnish
Cover beans with 2 inches of cold water and soak at room temperature for at least eight hours (you might want to do overnight). Rinse and drain well. Blanch the onions in salted boiling water for 1 minute then drain and peel. Put beans in a 5-6 quart pot and cover with 1 inch of water and bring to the boil. Add onions and simmer partly covered for 40 minutes to 1 hour until beans are tender. Skim off the froth as necessary. Remove from heat, stir in the salt and let sit for 30 minutes uncovered.
While the beans are cooking, prepare the tomatoes. Heat the oven to 500° and put the rack in upper third of the oven. Arrange the halved tomatoes in a roasting pan—cut side up. Mix the olive oil, sugar and salt in a bowl and pour evenly over the tomatoes. Roast tomatoes in the oven, uncovered for 35-50 minutes until the large tomatoes are really tender with brown patches—the cherry tomatoes will be really caramelized and falling apart.
Transfer the warm beans to a large deep serving platter with a slotted spoon. Carefully arrange the tomatoes on top of the beans and pour over the pan juices. Sprinkle with the basil leaves.
This makes a great side dish, perfect for a summer buffet or a vegetarian main course. For a soup, just put all the leftover into a blender with some chicken stock (the amount will depend on how much is left over and how thick you like your soup). Blend till smooth, put into a pan and heat—season to taste—absolutely delish!