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Italian pinzimonio turns vegetables and olive oil into a magnetic meal

(Rey Lopez for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Pinzimonio With White Bean Dip
Total time:20 mins
Servings:2 to 4
Total time:20 mins
Servings:2 to 4

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The first time I came across pinzimonio I thought it was a mistake. A friend of a friend placed a platter of vegetables on the table with a bowl of olive oil, pale golden-green, in its center. I thought she’d perhaps forgotten the roasted garlic or anchovies? Or did she mean to add vinegar and grated cheese? No, I learned, she’d served us a plate of pinzimonio.

Jim Dixon, founder of Wellspent Market in Portland, Ore., first learned about the dish in the early 2000s after a trip to Italy in 1996 spurred a longtime obsession with regional Italian cooking.

“I view it as more of an approach than an actual dish,” Dixon says, noting that there are many variations. Sometimes vinegar is added, other times garlic or pepper or lemon juice. Some cooks find these additions controversial, but to each cook their own.

I was doubly mistaken when I thought pinzimonio was served in the early fall to highlight the most recent olive oil pressing. Instead, Dixon says, it’s more about the vegetables than the oil. Beatrice Ughi of the Italian importing company Gustiamo concurs. (To celebrate olio nuovo, or the first olive oil pressing, Italians serve fettunta, which is bread soaked in oil. The name of the dish comes from the Tuscan dialect: fetta for “slice,” and unta for “oily” or “greased.”)

While spring vegetables are lovely and tender, fall vegetables deserve their own sort of celebration. Let’s have pinzimonio tonight, then. For this variation, I’ve added a garlicky white bean dip to round out the meal. It’s not traditional, but it’s a nice pairing and a good way to sneak more protein into this dinner.

There is a seemingly endless number of ways to approach the dish. I like that at its heart, the dish forces the eater to pay attention, to taste the individual vegetables and oil, to appreciate flavors that are often cooked and combined and muddled into some other whole. Taste a leaf of baby kale, a purple carrot, a fresh broccoli floret — really taste it. The oil and a pinch of salt will enhance the flavors of each vegetable just slightly, as though you were putting them under a magnifying glass.

This is exactly the idea behind a dish that sometimes appears on San Francisco restaurant Flour+Water’s menu. It’s called pinzimonio, but instead of serving the vegetables with a small bowl of oil and salt for dipping and sprinkling, co-chef Thomas McNaughton sprays each baby carrot and lettuce leaf with a mixture of olive oil, some kind of an acid — a vinegar or lemon juice — and shio koji, a marinade made from fermented grain that imparts a burst of umami. “Our job as a kitchen is to give people the perfect bite,” McNaughton says. With this style of pinzimonio, no bite goes to the table under-seasoned.

Practically speaking, you might not want to go into that level of fine dining detail at home. But do consider providing each person with their own personal plate of pinzimonio. “I’ve found the key is giving each diner a small bowl of olive oil so the table doesn’t get covered with oil as it inevitably drips from bowl to mouth,” Dixon says.

Pinzimonio With White Bean Dip

  • Use whatever vegetables you have available. Feel free to include bread or crackers, if you’d like.
  • Cannellini beans make an especially creamy dip >> but any white bean will work.
  • In place of garlic >> try a teaspoon of chopped rosemary.

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Ingredients

  • One (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, drained)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • Ice water, as needed
  • Fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 small carrots (10 ounces total), scrubbed
  • 2 small bulbs fennel (8 ounces total), sliced
  • 1/2 cup snap peas
  • 1 red bell pepper (8 ounces), sliced
  • 8 small radishes (6 ounces) (may substitute cauliflower)

Step 1

In a food processor, combine the beans, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Process until smooth and thick. With the processor running, drizzle in some ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dip is a thick but creamy consistency. Taste, and add lemon juice, if desired, then season to taste with salt and pepper.


Step 2

To serve, spread the dip in a shallow bowl. Top with a few glugs of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve with the carrots, fennel, peas, bell pepper, and radishes or cauliflower, for dipping.


Nutrition Information

Per serving (1/4 cup dip, 1 1/2 cups vegetables), based on 4

Calories: 243; Total Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 373 mg; Carbohydrates: 32 g; Dietary Fiber: 9 g; Sugar: 9 g; Protein: 6 g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.


From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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Catch up on this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes:

Monday: Vegetable Broth With Lemon- and Thyme-Scented Matzoh Balls

Tuesday: Beet Dip

Wednesday: Whole Wheat Pasta Salad With Crispy Broccoli

The Eat Voraciously newsletter recipe archives

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