An oval platter filled with white bean puree, radicchio, and red onions with a spoon resting in it and a serving in a bowl beside.

White Bean Puree, Radicchio, and Red Onions

5 / 4 votes
This white bean puree recipe, with white beans, olive oil, radicchio, red onions, garlic, and balsamic vinegar, is swell for Meatless Monday.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories241 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


For the white bean puree

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Two (14- or 15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock, canned chicken broth, or water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

For the vegetables

  • 2 large heads radicchio
  • 2 red onions
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Make the white bean puree

  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and gently cook the onion until it’s soft but not colored. Add the beans, garlic, chicken stock or water, and salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes.
  • Process the beans and their cooking liquid in a blender or food processor with the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice, leaving the mixture slightly chunky. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Make the vegetables

  • Halve each radicchio. Then thickly slice each radicchio into circles or cut each half into 4 sections, trimming and discarding the base and a little of the white heart from each section.
  • Halve the onions and trim the base of each. Cut each half lengthwise into crescent moon-shaped wedges, each about 3/4 inches wide at its thickest part. (Or just slice them horizontally, if you prefer.)
  • Mix the olive oil, balsamic, and seasoning together in a dish. Put the onions in a bowl and the radicchio in another bowl then drizzle both with dressing. Gently turn to coat and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until really hot but not smoking. Cook the onions quickly until well colored on all sides, turning once or more. Reduce the heat to low and let the onions cook, turning frequently, until softened, maybe 2 minutes or so.
  • Meanwhile, spoon the white bean puree into a serving dish, reheating it gently first if you want to. The puree can also be served at room temperature.
  • Increase the heat under the onions to medium-high, add the radicchio to the skillet, and cook just until the radicchio is wilted and colored on each side—this will happen very quickly, say, 45 seconds or so. Pile the radicchio and onions on top of the white bean puree. Season with salt and black pepper, and serve with a little oil drizzled over the top.
A Change of Appetite Cookbook

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 241 kcalCarbohydrates: 11 gProtein: 2 gFat: 21 gSaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 15 gSodium: 31 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 4 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2014 Diana Henry. Photo © 2014 Laura Edwards. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This white bean puree recipe was not only tasty but very unique in its flavor combinations. Who knew that white beans could be so decadent?!

The creamy puree could be enjoyed on its own as a side, and so could the sauteed red onion and radicchio. I can see the vegetable topping alongside a grilled skirt steak, chicken breast, or even pork chop.

This was simple to prepare and utterly delicious. I processed the mixture in my food processor until it was very smooth. In terms of cooking the vegetables, I actually used my grill pan to get those lovely grill marks that we all know and love.

I cooked the onions for about 2 minutes per side total and no, I did not add any of the cooking liquid to the pan while the veggies were cooking because I didn’t want the veggies to get too soggy. I did, however, add the remaining cooking liquid to the cooked veggies before serving them over the puree.  I didn’t want to waste any of that lovely flavor! 

By the time I cooked the veggies, the puree was still warm and sitting in the food processor, so there was no need to reheat it before serving. The radicchio took about the same cooking time as the onions, which was about 2 minutes per side.

The only thing missing from this dish was a “touch of green” for color contrast. Perhaps a bit of freshly chopped rosemary in the balsamic marinade or maybe even some snipped chives or chopped parsley would do? This was a lovely side dish that I will be enjoying again, that’s for sure!

Cooking the beans for 4 minutes seemed to be a pretty specific amount of time, but I found it amazing that right at the 4-minute mark, the beans had warmed through and begun absorbing the liquid at a pretty quick rate. If I hadn’t been paying close attention, I would have lost all the cooking liquid.

When I pureed the beans, I should have left them just a little bit chunky. When pureed until smooth, the beans’ texture got a bit pasty–delicious, but pasty–as it cooled. 

It would be easy to forget the lemon juice, but make sure to add it when you puree the beans. I was able to use just the oil and vinegar that was adhered to the onions to cook them, which left me enough liquid in the radicchio to steam and sauté at the same time, lending it great color on the edges. I served this white bean puree with a piece of tombo tuna with mango aioli. The sweetness was a nice complement to the bitterness of the radicchio and the acidity of the lemon in the beans.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This was awesome. It gave it a base of what I’ve done and seen in restaurants I’ve managed but never made at home. I put my own spin on it but filled this to a tee. Great recipe. I made charred octopus with a white bean puree.

  2. I would love to try this – what is the drained weight of a can of beans? I can only get dried beans to cook from scratch around here.