Cannellini bean and polenta bake

Serves 12-15

400g cannellini beans
10 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 small red onions, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 large leeks, chopped into rounds
200g runner beans, sliced
Salt, to taste
150g pancetta, cubed
200g button mushrooms, sliced
200g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
200g polenta
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
150g fontina cheese, cubed
A little extra-virgin olive oil for greasing

Place the beans in lots of fresh water and leave them to soak overnight. The next day, drain and cook them in plenty of slightly salted water for 30-40 minutes or until they are tender but not mushy.

Towards the end of their cooking time, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, celery, leek and fry until soft. Add the runner beans, season with salt and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook for a further minute. Throw in the mushrooms and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Carefully stir in the cherry tomatoes and cannellini beans, making sure not to break the cooked beans. Remove from the heat and set aside. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.

Make the polenta runny, according to the instructions on the packet. If you need extra water, make sure you have some boiling water ready to add. As you are making the polenta, keep stirring it with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps.

In a large bowl, mix together a little polenta at a time with some of the bean mixture, again taking care not to break the beans, until all the polenta and most of the beans are well amalgamated. Keep aside some of the beans and vegetables. Stir in the fontina cheese and season with salt to taste.

Grease the bottom of a terracotta or ovenproof dish with a little olive oil. Pour the mixture into it, and add the remaining beans and vegetables.

Cook in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until golden on top. Remove and serve.

From 'Gennaro's Italian Home Cooking' by Gennaro Contaldo (£16.99 Headline).

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