Salsicce e fagioli (Sausage and Beans)
Pork and beans were meant for each other—think franks and beans from the States or cassoulet from France, to take just two examples.
There’s hardly anything to it: sausages are browned in olive oil, then simmered with tomato sauce to which pre-boiled or canned beans are added to simmer just long enough for the flavors to meld. Some onion and fresh herbs go into the mix, but the sausages themselves provide most of the flavor, as they should.
An excellent example “pantry cooking”, making sausage and beans requires no real culinary skills. If you’re using canned tomatoes and beans, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or so. It’s a great make-ahead dish that reheats beautifully.
- 1-2 (or more) sausages per person, depending on appetites
- 1 medium onion, finely minced
- A splash of white (or red) wine (OPTIONAL)
- A sprig of fresh sage and/or rosemary
- 1/2 large can (400g/14 oz) of tomatoes, puréed
- 2 small cans (425 g/15 oz each) cannellini or borlotti beans or ANY bean is Ok
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
In a sauté pan or braiser large enough to hold all the sausages in one layer, brown the sausages on all sides in abundant olive oil.
When the sausages are nice and brown, add the minced onion, seasoning everything generously with salt and pepper. Stir from time to time. Continue over gentle heat until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the wine. Raise the heat and let the wine evaporate.
Add the puréed tomatoes and herbs to the pan, making sure to distribute the tomato evenly, and adjust the heat so the tomato simmers gently. Continue simmering until the tomato has reduced and visibly separates from the oil, about 15 minutes or so.
Add the beans and mix them into the sauce, along with a ladleful of water or broth. Let everything simmer for just 5-10 minute more, long enough to allow the beans to heat up and the flavors to meld.
Notes on Sausage and Beans
This is one of those recipes where measurements hardly matter.
Add more or less tomato depending on how ‘red’ you’d like your dish. You can vary the amount of onion or herbs, too. In short, this dish is almost infinitely customizable.
I like to use canned tomatoes for this dish, passed through the largest holes of a food mill. But here again, there are lots of options. You could add the canned tomatoes directly to the pan, perhaps crushing them between your fingers as you add them. You could use tomatoes that already come crushed or diced, of course. Or you could use passata, whether store-bought or your own homemade variety. I also like to use canned beans. They’re a real time-saver. But do make sure to rinse and drain them before using to eliminate that “canny” flavor. You can also use the equivalent weight (about 800g or 28 oz) of homemade boiled beans, of course.
make ahead—it’s even better when you do so. And if you have leftover beans, reheat them with a ladleful or two or water or broth, then add cooked pasta, and you’ll have a nice bowl of pasta.
Or you can thin our the beans with even more water or broth—purée them if you want—and serve them as a soup, with some nice crusty bread.
In some recipes for salsicce e fagioli, you sauté the onions first before adding the sausages. This follows the usual pattern in Italian recipes, beginning with a soffritto as a foundation that infuses the other ingredients with their flavor. In this case, I like to brown the sausages first over fairly high heat, adding the onions afterwards so there’s no risk they will burn. I don’t find it makes any noticeable difference in the result. The sausages have lots of flavor on their own—it’s the beans that need the infusion of flavor.
The wine, by the way, can be red or white. Or, if you can just skip the wine, adding the tomato directly after you sauté the onions. A pinch of hot pepper can add a bit of spice to your Sausage and Beans if you like. The beans are typically cannellini or borlotti, but really any bean or other legume would work here.