More often than not, our weekday dinners are determined by an item in the fridge that’s near its “use-by” date. Such was the case on Monday, when my husband announced that we had a pound of Italian sausage that needed to be used or tossed. When I suggested making my go-to sausage and roasted peppers, he said: “Again? Why not try something new and use it for the blog.”
While making something new might not pose a problem for those of you who have a nearby market or a car, for those of us who don’t, it often involves seeing what’s on hand and then searching for a suitable recipe. After discovering a package of green lentils in the pantry, I turned to my cookbook collection, where I found the perfect match, “Lentil and Sausage Casseroles,” in a volume from the Good Cook series by Time-Warner: Dried Beans and Grains.
Fortunately, we had almost everything required–even a fresh zucchini, which was intended for another purpose. The only ingredients lacking were plum tomatoes, for which we substituted the Italian canned plum variety, and a quarter pound of hot sausage, which we made up for by adding some crushed red-pepper flakes to our expiring pound of sweet.
Upon closer inspection, however, the recipe appeared a bit dated. For example, the amounts specified for oregano (½ teaspoon), garlic (1 small clove) bay leaf (½ leaf) seemed rather restrained by contemporary standards. In addition, the lack of oil in the directions to sauté the sausage for fifteen minutes and then use the remaining fat for sautéing the onions and garlic appeared to reflect pork with a higher fat content than is customary today. After some research, I wasn’t surprised to find that the recipe first appeared in the New York Times more than 50 years ago, in 1971. Perhaps the word “casseroles” should have given me a clue.
Other than increasing the amounts of oregano, garlic, and bay leaves, as well as using some olive oil to sauté the sausage, I pretty much followed the recipe. As mentioned above, I also added some red-pepper flakes to compensate for the absence of hot sausage and substituted canned plum tomatoes for the fresh. I’ve also specified sizes for the sliced sausage and zucchini.
I’m happy to report that this dish surpassed our expectations. The rich meaty flavors from the browned sausage blended perfectly with the deep earthy flavors from the perfectly cooked lentils. The zucchini and tomatoes added just a hint of sweetness that was balanced with the pungency from the oregano and vinegar. Rather than using, as suggested by the recipe, individual casseroles, I opted for pasta bowls and served the dish with a drizzle of olive oil and accompanied by slices of crusty Italian bread.
Lentil and Sausage Casseroles (adapted from a recipe by Jean Hewitt in Dried Beans & Grains)
1 ¼ cups dried lentils, picked through and washed
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, cut into ½-inch slices
2 onions chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
3 cups beef stock
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
3 plum tomatoes, peeled
1 small zucchini sliced, cut into ½-inch half-moon slices
¾ tsp crushed red-pepper flakes, or more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh fennel greens or parsley
1. In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and when hot sauté the sausage slices over medium-high heat until done, about 15 to 20 minutes. When browned, remove the sausage slices with a slotted spoon and set them aside on paper towels to drain.
2. In the sausage fat remaining in the skillet, sauté the onions over medium heat until tender, but not browned, about 5 minutes. While sautéing scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the garlic to the pan, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add the bay leaf, oregano, stock, vinegar, and lentils.
5. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the skillet, and simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, red-pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.
7. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils and zucchini are tender but still retain their shapes, about 15 to 20 minutes.
8. Return the sausage slices to the skillet and reheat the mixture, about 5 minutes.
9. Serve in warmed pasta bowls (or individual casseroles), drizzled with a touch of olive oil and sprinkled with the chopped fennel or parsley. Accompany with plenty of crusty French or Italian bread.
Wine Pairing: Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Chianti
3 thoughts on “Lentil and Sausage Casseroles”
Oh we will definitely try this recipe, Roland! Not only does it sound great, but we literally have all those ingredients on hand all the time. Ironically, upon reading your post this AM, Tricia said she had a bag of lentils she was trying to think of a good use for. Problem solved thanks to you!
Talk about serendipity! This truly was delicious and perfect for a blustery winter’s day.
Reblogged this on Table Wine.