Published March 1, 2003. From Cook's Illustrated.
Four brands contested for best in show.
Because so few brands of canned cannellini beans (our favorite beans for soup) are distributed nationwide, we broadened our taste test to include other white beans with widespread distribution. We tasted each contender twice: straight from the can (after being drained and rinsed) and prepared in our recipe for pasta e fagioli made without the pasta.
The tasting had two clear winners, one clear loser, and one brand with mixed comments from tasters. The winner, a can of Great Northern Beans, had the best flavor and texture—described as "earthy" and "creamy" by our tasters—but they were a bit small for our soup recipe. The runner-up, cannellini beans, were deemed "plump" and "sweet" and were the perfect size for soup. The third-place cannellini beans we tested received mixed scores. Their flavor received high marks, but tasters were put off by their "weird" gray color and "tough" skins. The losing navy beans were small and broken and rejected by our tasters.