Beans, chick peas, lentils and cereals are an important staple of the Italian diet and are cultivated in many varieties from the North to the South of the country. An inexpensive but incredibly versatile ingredient, beans are used in pasta dishes, salads, mashed and spread on bruschetta, in soups and thicker stews. They are also served as a side dish with steaks and sausage.
Cannellini and Borlotti are the best known varieties. Italian chick peas are another excellent source of protein and are often used in comforting winter pasta dishes.