Sausage e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli (fagioli = “beans”) is a classic Italian peasant dish. Here I’ve replaced the pasta with sausage, for a new twist on one of my favorite things to come from my mom’s kitchen.

Let’s get started:

  • 3 mild Italian sausages (9 or 10 ounces–I used chicken sausage, but you can use vegetarian sausage or whatever)
  • 1 cup hot chicken stock or veggie stock, if you’re making this veg
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup of something green, chopped coarsely but finely (I used kale, but you can use spinach or basil)
  • 1/3 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/3-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

So! A few words of advice before you get started. First, I think it’s very important that your sausages are mild Italian-style, because they’ll need the anise flavor typically present in that mix to make it taste “right.” But I’m a major fan of spicy food, so I guess I’ll let it slide if you want to use hot Italian-style instead. Second, I concentrated my stock with 1/2 the water it called for, because I like a bolder flavor in this dish. I want to recommend that you do the same, but since I’m not familiar with every stock on the market (or with your own homemade stock), all I can do is nudge you to think about trying it that way. And last, if you want to use basil as your green element in this dish, add it at the very end, stirring it into the dish once it’s off the heat. Kale, spinach, and similar greens need the time to wilt in this recipe, but basil shouldn’t be cooked that way. OK, here we go!

Bring your hot stock and garlic to a simmer, on low heat, for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and simmer some more for 5 minutes. While that’s happening, cut your sausages into 1/2″ roundels or half-roundels. Add them to the mix, and turn the heat to medium, simmering again for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, put your drained cannellini beans into a bowl, and mush them a little with a potato masher (or, failing that, a big spoon). I’ve loved this dish since I was a kid, but I always smushed my beans before I ate them. Here I’ve saved you the trouble of doing that later, unless of course you like whole beans. I find that they add an element which is almost too coarse for this dish, however stew-like it is, if they aren’t mashed a bit. So once you’ve decided what to do with your beans, add them, stir, and turn the heat down to low again.

Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes, black pepper, and your green element (again, if you’re using basil, wait a few minutes until the heat is off). You shouldn’t need to add salt, because your stock will probably contain more than enough of it. Stir the mix and let it cook for a another 2 minutes. It should be thick and hearty. Finito!

This recipe will serve two people if you’ve also made an appetizer or side dish, or if you’ve tossed it with a bit of pasta. Otherwise, it’ll serve one person with some leftovers (I actually tossed my leftovers with penne the next day for lunch).

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