Italian Talisman Italian Cook Book

Red Bean Salad

This Italian style red bean salad with canned tuna feels so familiar to my Western palette acclimatized to grocery store prepared salads that I almost didn’t bother to include it on this review. Which would have been a mistake. No, this cold bean salad doesn’t reinvent the wheel. That’s probably because dating to the early 20th century Ada Boni’s book IS the wheel.

What convinced me to include this recipe in the end was that it was different enough in execution from what my own on the fly instincts would have created that I thought it was worth pointing out. The great delight in working from cook books, vintage or otherwise, is the slight variations on a theme. I’ve talked about this before in regards to the endless variations on guacamole.

So, what makes this bean salad stick out exactly? Two things: marjoram as a herb and the subtle inclusion of anchovies to bolster that seafaring brine of the tuna. Marjoram isn’t a herb I have a lot of experience with and so I would never think to use it for well, anything. Hence, I am always intrigued when it crops up on the occasional vintage recipe. Even here, I couldn’t really tell you what it added to the recipe aside from a slightly herbed quality. But, that doesn’t matter, the end result is something fresh, bright, full of life and flavour. The perfect counter pose to the heavy prosciutto and melted cheese found throughout the rest of the book. As a side note, dried herbs were probably the norm for this recipe back in the day but my preference is always to use fresh when available. So definitely get yourself some fresh basil and parsley to make this salad pop.


1 can of red kidney beans
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can tuna
2 anchovy filets, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients together and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.