Home » Italian Recipes » Polenta With Cannellini Beans And Kale Recipe (Farinata Con Cavolo Nero) – Vegan & Gluten-Free
Hand holding blue bowl of farinata con cavolo nero. There is a spoon in the bowl and the bowl is held over a white marble counter.

Polenta With Cannellini Beans And Kale Recipe (Farinata Con Cavolo Nero) – Vegan & Gluten-Free

Last updated on February 22nd, 2024

Are you trying to eat less meat but struggling to find dishes that are easy to make and fulfilling? Try Tuscany’s beloved farinata con cavolo nero – polenta and cannellini beans with kale – for a hearty, healthy and filling meal any day of the week.

When I first moved to Tuscany I had no idea that the region’s cuisine was so vegetarian and vegan friendly. This is because so many of the regional dishes are rooted in la cucina povera. Many of the oldest and most traditional Italian dishes are used next to nothing and solely what is produced locally.

Farinata con cavolo nero is a prime example of vegan cuisine in Italy and it also teaches us that vegan cooking doesn’t have to be hard nor flavorless. On the contrary,  it’s super hearty, made rich by the cannellini beans and well seasoned.

Feel good and enjoy what you are making and what’s more? It’s also gluten-free! What more could you want for those of you starting a New Year’s resolution or simply just trying to make a lifestyle change. 

And don’t miss my suggestions and substitutions at the end, which will help you tailor this dish to even meat-lovers!

Hand holding blue and white bowl of polenta with cannellini beans and kale.

Recipe Pronunciation

Farinata con cavolo nero is pronounced far-ee-nah-tah cohn cah-voh-loh neh-roh in Italian. 

Listen to the pronunciation of farinata con cavolo nero:

What is Farinata con Cavolo Nero?  

White counter with bowls of polenta with cannellini beans and kale.

Farinata con cavolo nero is a hot, savory polenta dish enriched with kale and cannellini beans originally from Tuscany.

Farinata con cavolo nero (polenta with cannellini beans and kale) is a Tuscan dish made by slowly cooking polenta with kale that has been stewed with vegetable stock and soffritto until creamy and thick like oatmeal. Both pureed and whole cannellini beans are added for protein.

It’s most commonly prepared in the winter months when local cavolo nero or kale is in season. 

Ingredients for Farinata con Cavolo Nero (Polenta with Cannellini Beans and Kale)

Pile of chopped cavolo nero on marble counter.

serves 4

prep time 15 min

cook time 45 min

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ stalk celery
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil + more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 large bunch dinosaur kale (about 9 oz/250 grams), stems removed
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock, water or bean cooking liquid
  • 14 oz (400 grams) drained, cooked cannellini beans, homemade or canned
  • 1 cup (150 grams) polenta (not instant)
top view of marble table with a bunch of kale bound with a rubber band

Step-By-Step Instructions for Polenta with Cannellini Beans and Kale

dutch oven and wooden spoon on marble counter. inside is the beginning of farinata con cavolo nero.
  1. Finely chop the carrot, celery and onion. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and add the chopped vegetables (battuto). Cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile wash the kale, remove the veins and stalks and roughly chop.
  3. Add the tomato paste and ½ teaspoon salt to the pot and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Puree about 5 oz of the cannellini beans with 1 cup water and add to the pot with the prepared kale and 3 cups of liquid (either cooking liquid from the homemade beans, water or vegetable stock). Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the kale is tender. 
  5. As you stir, pour in the polenta and continue stirring until it comes back up to a simmer. Gently cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and being sure it’s not sticking to the bottom (lower the heat if it is).
  6. Add the remaining beans and cook until the polenta is creamy (it should be smooth when you taste it – not griddy). If you find it’s getting too thick, just add a bit more water. It should be similar to oatmeal consistency. 
  7. Season for salt and pepper and serve with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. 
Hand pouring uncooked polenta into dutch oven with cooked kale.

Variations of Farinata con Cavolo Nero

side view of stacked cured bacon/pancetta for sale
  • Add pancetta: add about 2.5 ounces of chopped bacon or pancetta to the soffritto in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking and brown. This will give extra body and depth to the dish but no longer makes it vegan!
  • Add a parmesan rind: farinata is a great opportunity to use up old parmesan rinds. Just pop it in as the soffritto is just finishing cooking. 
  • You can use instant polenta if you are in a pinch but it won’t be nearly as good. Just cook it according to the package, usually between 5-10 minutes. In this case, add the cannellini beans right after you mix the polenta in. 

What to Serve With Farinata con Cavolo Nero

This dish, like many Tuscan first course meals, is a meal in itself and can either be eaten alone or paired with a simple green salad. It’s extremely hardy and filling. 

Notes and Tips for this Farinata con Cavolo Nero Recipe

Farinata con cavolo nero ingredients - polenta in metal measuring cup, beans in glass measuring cup, and orange dutch oven with spoon and cooked kale.
  • The amount of salt you add to this recipe will vary heavily depending on the type of liquid you use. If you are using bean cooking liquid or store-bought chicken stalk, the farinata will be very flavorful. If you are using water, you will need to season well for salt and pepper. 

Serving Leftovers of Farinata con Cavolo Nero

Leftovers can be repurposed as grilled polenta squares. Spread leftover polenta into a casserole dish and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. Pull the farinata out and cut into squares which can then be pan fried or grilled. 

You can also gently reheat farinata with a splash of milk, broth or water. Be careful not to burn the polenta so stir often and keep the pot over low heat. 

Pyrex glass measuring cup with cooking liquid from beans. It's sitting on a stone shelf.

Looking for kale recipes? Check out:
Polenta with Cannellini Beans and Kale
Creamy Italian Kale Soup
Italian Kale Salad with Gorgonzola
Tuscan Kale Crostini
Popular Tuscan Kale Recipes

Hand holding blue bowl of farinata con cavolo nero. There is a spoon in the bowl and the bowl is held over a white marble counter.

Polenta with Cannellini Beans and Kale (Farinata con Cavolo Nero)

Farinata con cavolo nero is a hot, savory polenta dish enriched with kale and cannellini beans originally from Tuscany.
Polenta is slowly kale that has been stewed with vegetable stock soffritto that has been, until creamy and thick like oatmeal. Both pureed and whole cannellini beans are added for protein.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 stalk celery
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil + more for serving
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large bunch dinosaur kale about 9 oz (250 g), stems removed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, water, or bean cooking liquid (1 liter)
  • 14 oz drained cannellini beans homemade or canned
  • 1 cup polenta (150 g), not instant

Instructions
 

  • Finely chop the carrot, celery and onion. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and add the chopped vegetables (battuto). Cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile wash the kale, remove the veins and stalks and roughly chop.
  • Add the tomato paste and ½ teaspoon salt to the pot and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Puree about 5 oz of the cannellini beans with 1 cup water and add to the pot with the prepared kale and 3 cups of liquid (either cooking liquid from the homemade beans, water or vegetable stock). Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the kale is tender.
  • As you stir, pour in the polenta and continue stirring until it comes back up to a simmer. Gently cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and being sure it’s not sticking to the bottom (lower the heat if it is).
  • Add the remaining beans and cook until the polenta is creamy (it should be smooth when you taste it – not griddy). If you find it’s getting too thick, just add a bit more water. It should be similar to oatmeal consistency.
  • Season for salt and pepper and serve with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Notes

The amount of salt you add to this recipe will vary heavily depending on the type of liquid you use. If you are using bean cooking liquid or store-bought chicken stalk, the farinata will be very flavorful. If you are using water, you will need to season well for salt and pepper. 
Keyword authentic, gluten-free, vegan
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Farinata Con Cavolo Nero FAQ

Can I use instant polenta for farinata?

You can but instant polenta is not nearly as good as stone-ground polenta. 

Is Farinata vegan?

Farinata is a vegan dish from Tuscany. Sometimes it can be made with pancetta but the original recipe does not call for it. 

Can you freeze farinata?

This is not the best dish to freeze. Instead, repurpose leftovers by spreading it into a casserole pan and let it firm up before cutting it into squares and either grilling or pan frying it. 

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