Lima Beans with Pancetta and Sage

Lima Beans with Pancetta and Sage


Lima beans, origin Peru, are yet another one of natures gifts from the new world, along with tomatoes, corn, chilies, avocados, squash, cacao, vanilla, and turkeys. Sound like a theme for the holidays? Well, why not! The bounty discovered in the Americas changed how the world ate from the fourteen hundreds onward.

Lima beans are seasonally available fresh in the northern and southern hemispheres, but sun dried lima beans are available year round, so why not take advantage and cook these luxurious sunny buttery beans anytime. Lima beans rival and, to my mind, surpass the usual comfort foods that are so often served up over the holidays and winter months.

The recipe that follows is sure to liven up meals, pairing well with meats, poultry, fish, in soups, or part of a vegetarian meal. Rich in nutrients; cooper, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins B1 and B2. Easy to prepare and sure to please.

Lima Beans with Pancetta and Sage: Serves 6

Note: Lima beans can be boiled or, my preference, pressure cooked to cut down the cooking time. Boiled beans may take up to 3 hours, while pressure cooking will take approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Using either method will produce the same results

Also, do not season the beans with salt or pepper until the beans are cooked. Salting tends to harden the beans if added during cooking.

  • 1 ½ cups dried white lima beans
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 slices pancetta (or 2 slices lean cut bacon if not available), chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 5 cups water
  • sea salt 
  • freshly ground pepper

Place a large pot or pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the oil and when hot add the onions and saute, while stirring, until the onions have softened. Add the pancetta and garlic and continue to saute until the onions begin to color and the pancetta has released its fat. Add the sage and saute until the sage has wilted, about 1 minute.

Add the water to the pot along with the lima beans and bring to a simmer.

If you are using a pressure cooker, lock the lid onto the top of the pot and wait until the pressure gauge in the center of the lid reaches the second ring. This indicates high pressure. Reduce the heat to low to retain pressure without over pressurizing. If the pressure is too high the safety valve will release steam, at which point lower the heat further and continue cooking. Generally pressure cooking the beans will take 25 to 30 minutes for a very soft bean with skin still in tack. If the beans are very old the cooking time will be somewhat longer.

If you are boiling the beans, partially cover with a lid and boil the beans at a simmer until the beans are soft, with skin in tact. Add additional water as needed.

Once the beans are cooked set aside to cool. If using a pressure cooker, run the pot under cold water to cool before attempting to release the steam using the steam release valve. Once the steam has been released you may open the lid.

Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the beans into the colander. Drain the beans and transfer to an oven proof baking dish and cover with foil to keep the beans warm if you intend to serve them once the cooking broth has been reduced, or set them aside, uncovered, to cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating for later use.

Pour the reserved cooking liquid back into the pot, including any bits remaining, and bring to a boil and reduce until the liquid has thickened. This will take about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to stir as the reduction thickens to avoid scorching. You should have about 1 ½ cups once reduced.

Season the reduced broth with salt and pepper to taste.

If you intend to serve the beans immediately, pour the seasoned reduction over the beans and stir to combine. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed and serve.

If you intend to serve the beans later, cool the reduction to room temperature, pour the seasoned reduction over the beans and stir to combine. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed, cover and refrigerate for later use.

To reheat the beans, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you intend to reheat them. Place in a preheated oven set at 300F/150c for abut 20 minutes and serve promptly.


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