Pasta with Sausage & Radicchio

Penne with Sausage & Radicchio

Perhaps my favorite season in New York City was fall. It always seemed that the city somehow sprung back to life from a lazy hot and humid summer slumber. The atmosphere grew more vibrant as leaves changed color and cooler temps set in. The fall harvest seemed to energize the Union Square Farmers Market.

Alas, we don’t have as dramatic a seasonal change here in San Diego, “where the climate must be perfect all the year.” So to compensate for this, I cook the fall dishes I used to make back in the city.

One of these is Mario Batali’s “Mezzi Rigatoni with Sausage and Radicchio.” Made with sausage, radicchio, fennel, red onion, red wine and tomato sauce, its colors intimate fall foliage. On the palate, it delivers a kaleidoscope of flavors: sweet from the fennel, bitter from the radicchio, savory from the sausage, all balanced with a simple tomato sauce. (I use Marcella Hazan’s sauce made with five tablespoons of butter, an onion split in half, and Italian plum tomatoes with their juices.)

Batali’s recipe calls for mezzi rigatoni, and should you choose to make this dish, I strongly suggest using this pasta shape; it has the perfect size and weight for this rich sauce. Unfortunately, I had run out of them and substituted penne rigate, which were OK, but definitely not as good as the recommended rigatoni. Lack of availability also forced me to substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano for the recipe’s Asiago.

Batali’s recipe comes from his 2011 Simple Family Meals. Since I was cooking only for two, I pretty much halved the recipe’s amounts. However, you can find the original recipe, which serves 6 as a main course, here.

One final note: take your time with Step 10 of the recipe and so that the pasta is well coated with the sauce.

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
½ tablespoon fennel seeds
½ tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
½ red onion, chopping into ¼-inch dice
½ fennel bulb, ribs and fronds discarded, bulb finely chopping
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 head radicchio, cored and finely chopped
½ cup dry red wine, such as Morellino di Scansano
1 cups basic tomato sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound mezzi rigatoni pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, for serving

Chopped, sliced, crumbled

Directions:

1. In a heavy-bottomed 12-inch sauté pan, cook the sausage over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes.

Browned Sausage

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate.

3. Add the fennel seeds, hot pepper flakes, onions, fennel, garlic, and radicchio to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are well browned, about 10 minutes.

Cooking vegetables

4. Return the sausage to the pan, add the wine and the tomato sauce, and bring to a boil.

Adding wine
Adding tomatoes

5. Lower the heat and simmer until the radicchio is very tender and the sauce as thickened, about 10 minutes.

Thickened Sauce

6. Season well with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

7. Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.

8. Drop the mezzi rigatoni into the water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle ½ of the cooking water into the sausage mixture.

Adding pasta water

9. Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the sausage mixture.

10. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated.

Tossed Pasta

11. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, with a bowl of grated Asiago on the side.

Wine Pairing: Morellino di Scansano, Sangiovese

Roasted Sausages & Grapes

Roasted Sausages & Grapes

Although I enjoy serving on the board of my condo, it can at times throw me off my schedule for dinner. Such was the case last night. I had planned one dish and, owing to an emergency board meeting, had to substitute another that could be on the table at a reasonable hour for a weeknight.

Fortunately, we had some sausages on hand that were intended for another dish as well as some delicious seedless red grapes. This combination of ingredients brought to mind a dish I prepared a few years ago, but a quick internet search uncovered an easier alternative. Unlike the earlier recipe, which called for sautéing the ingredients, this approach called for roasting them. And I must admit that on a weeknight I prefer roasting as a cooking method because it makes for easier cleanup than sautéing.

The recipe I found comes from an Ina Garten episode on The Food Network in which she has chef, Johanne Killeen, from a favorite Italian restaurant, Al Forno in Providence RI, prepare the dish called simply: “Roasted Sausages and Grapes.”

I made a few changes to the original recipe, substituting 1 pound of Italian mild sausages for 3 pound mix of sweet and hot and halving the amount of grapes. I also added about a cup of chopped red onion and a couple of tablespoons of chopped sage to the grapes and sausage before roasting. Finally, rather than using the suggested focaccia as an accompaniment, I served a simple polenta.

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 pound Italian mild sausage

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups (approx. 1 pound) red seedless grapes, stems removed

4 tablespoons dry red wine, preferably Chianti

3 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

Polenta, to serve

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Parboil the sausages in water to cover for 8 minutes to rid them of excess fat.

Parboiling the Sausage

3. Melt the butter in a large heatproof roasting pan, add the grapes, and toss to coat.

Coating the Grapes

4. Over moderately high heat add the wine. Stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the wine has reduced by half.

Reducing the Wine

5. Using tongs, transfer the parboiled sausages to the roasting pan and push them down in the grapes so the sausages will not brown too quickly.

Adding the Sausage

6. Roast in the oven, turning the sausages once, until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Turning the Sausage

7. Place the roasting pan on top of the stove over a medium-high heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the roasting pan, and allow the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages and grapes to a serving platter.

Reducing the Balsamic

8. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately, accompanied with fresh bread.

The Finished Dish

Wine Pairing: Chianti, Sangiovese, Merlot

 

Kielbasa & Sauerkraut

Kielbasa & Sauerkraut

This is not a Polish joke: What do you do when your husband asks you to make kielbasa? You make it. After five years of marriage, my better half, who is of Polish heritage, asked me for the first time in our relationship to recreate a dish his mother often made: Kielbasa with Sauerkraut.

I admit I was somewhat intimidated to attempt to replicate a childhood memory. But this was the first time he’s ever requested an eastern European meal.

When I agreed, he informed me, most enthusiastically, that he had already found a recipe that reminded him of the original. It was from a 1995 issue of “Bon Appetit” that had been published on the “Epicurious” website.

Although it takes almost two and a half hours to prepare, most of the dish’s cooking time is devoted to a long braise in the oven and the prep is relatively simple. I departed from the recipe only slightly by using chopped onions as opposed to sliced and substituting fennel seeds for the caraway. For the wine, I opted for a California Dry Riesling.

My husband’s only other request was to serve the dish with a boiled potato to which I added butter and dill.

Given that the evening weather was beautiful, we dined on the terrace just as the sun was setting. Maybe it was the lighting, but as I caught a glimpse of my husband’s face as he took his fist taste, he appeared to be aglow with contentment.

Prepped Ingredients

Ingredients

6 smoked bacon slices, cut into 2-inch-wide strips
1 large onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 2-pound jar sauerkraut, rinsed, drained well
2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
4 juniper berries, crushed, or 1 tablespoon gin
1 1/2 pounds kielbasa sausage, cut into 3-inch lengths

Preparation

1- Preheat oven to 300°F. Place bacon, onion and carrot in heavy large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté until onion is tender but not brown, about 5 minutes.

Sauteed Bacon & Vegetables

2- Squeeze as much liquid as possible from sauerkraut. (I placed my drained sauerkraut in a clean dish towel and twisted until the sauerkraut gave up most of its liquid.) Add sauerkraut to Dutch oven. Add wine, stock, caraway seeds and juniper berries.

Adding the drained sauerkraut

 

3- Bring to simmer. Cover tightly, place in oven and bake 1 hour.

After the first hour

4. Add kielbasa to Dutch oven, pushing into sauerkraut.

Adding the kielbasa

6. Cover and bake 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring frequently.)

The Finished Dish

Wine Pairing: Dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc

Roasted Sausages with Butternut Squash and Pears

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About a year ago while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I saw a recipe on the Rachael Ray show for sausages roasted with butternut squash and pears. Well, after finding the recipe online, I finally got around to making it the other night for a small get together with friends. The colors and aroma of the dish echoed fall.

I made a few changes to the original recipe that included adding shallots and extending the cooking time. I also substituted a package of cut and peeled squash for the recipe’s large butternut squash.

Roasted Sausages with Butternut Squash and Pears (adapted from the Rachael Ray Show)

Ingredients

3 red pears, cored, cut into quarters
1 20-ounce package cut and peeled butternut quash
2 large shallots peeled and quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
5 sprigs thyme
8 sweet Italian sausages (about 2.5 pounds)
Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place pears, butternut squash and onions into a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Scatter the sprigs of thyme over top of the vegetables. Place the sausages on top of the vegetables.

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Put the roasting pan into the oven and cook for about 35 minutes or until sausages are golden brown. (The original recipe called for 25 minutes of cooking, but I found that both the sausages and the vegetables needed more time to roast. I also turned the sausages after 30 minutes to makes sure they were browned evenly.)

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Drizzle the sausages and roasted pears, squash, and shallots with some balsamic vinegar.

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Wine Pairing: Zinfandel, Primitivo

Roasted Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

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Sausage and Peppers has been a family favorite for years. My aunt would often prepare this for lunch on Saturdays, after we returned from shopping in our neighborhood’s Italian section on Avenue U in Brooklyn. She would serve them with bread still warm from the baker and a selection of cheeses from her favorite salumeria. These days, I often make it for an easy weeknight supper.

Like most cooks, my aunt would fry up the sausages and then use their fat to fry the onions and peppers. This is the way I too have prepared this dish—that is, until last night.

Although I enjoy this Italian staple, I hate cleaning up the greasy mess it makes all over the stove. I thought there must be an easier alternative using my oven. I did a Google search and found several recipes that looked promising.  I combined a few of them and came up with the one below.

Once again, I hadn’t planned on writing about this dish, but it turned out so well that I had to share it with you. I don’t think I’ll ever use the stove top again to make it.

Roasted Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Ingredients
4 Italian sweet sausages
4 bell peppers (2 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange) cored, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 large onion, thinly sliced or chopped
3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, quartered for serving with the sausage (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Spray a large roasting pan with olive-oil spray.
  3. Place the sausages, peppers, onion, garlic, in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss, making sure the sausages are in a single layer.
  4. Roast the sausages and vegetables for about an hour. About mid-way through, turn the sausages to ensure even browning.

When the sausages and vegetables are browned to your liking, remove from the oven and serve. Squeeze some lemon on the sausage for added flavor.

Wine Pairing: Zinfandel

Chicken Scarpariello

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A request from my better half for chicken scarpariello, which by the way I had never had, led me to search my cookbooks for a recipe. None of them, however, contained one that met his expectations. Consequently, I expanded my (now our) search to the Internet, where we finally found a recipe by Anne Burrell on the Food Network website that came close to meeting all the requirements.

This Italian-American dish appears to have originated in New York City. Its name, scarpariello, or shoemaker style, has been attributed to its being “cobbled” together from several ingredients that play a key role in it: chicken, sausage, and cherry peppers.

Although a good number of versions call for cutting up the chicken into small pieces to better absorb the sauce, I chose to use whole thighs, which allow for a slightly longer cooking time to reduce the sauce without drying out the chicken. For the same reason, I also cut my sausages and peppers slightly larger than called for by the original recipe. Finally, rather than using hot cherry peppers, I opted for peppers that were labeled “hot & sweet” in order to reduce the heat and keep older digestive systems happy.

Chicken Scarpariello (Adapted from Anne Burrell on the Food Network Website)

Ingredients

Ingredients
Ingredients

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound fennel sausage, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
3-pounds skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup hot and sweet cherry peppers halved or quartered depending on size
1/2 cup pepper juice, from the jar
1 cup chicken stock, plus a little more if needed
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Coat a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pan with olive oil and bring the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown well.

Browning sausage
Browning sausage

Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Trim any excess skin and fat from the chicken. Season generously with salt and pepper and add to the pan that the sausage was browned in. Brown the chicken well.

Browning chicken
Browning chicken

Once the chicken is brown on all sides, remove it from the pan and reserve.

Drain the oil from the pan and return it to the heat. Coat the pan lightly with new olive oil, add the onions, and season with salt. Cook the onions over medium heat until they are translucent and very aromatic, 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Browning onions and garlic
Browning onions

Add the wine to the pan and reduce it by half. While the wine is reducing, scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

Reducing the wine and deglazing
Reducing the wine and deglazing

Return the sausage and chicken, along with any accumulated juices, to the pan and add the cherry peppers, cherry-pepper juice, chicken stock, and oregano.

The chicken and sausage
The chicken and sausage
Adding the peppers, pepper juice, stock and oregano
Adding the peppers, pepper juice, stock and oregano

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for 5 to 10 more minutes; add more chicken stock if the sauce has reduced too much.

The finished dish
The finished dish

Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. The finished dish should be slightly soupy, spicy, and delicious.

Wine Pairing: Chardonnay, Riesling

Italian Sausage with Grapes, Onion, and Balsamic Vinegar

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Early on Sunday evening, we usually sit down with a cocktail and some appetizers to watch the string of cooking shows on PBS. They’re a welcome calm alternative to the increasingly competition-driven line-up on the Food Network.

One of our favorite shows is America’s Test Kitchen, which is both entertaining and instructive. A recent episode of the series included a relatively simple weeknight recipe for sweet Italian sausages with seedless red grapes and balsamic vinegar that we both thought had to be on our table before the end of the week. We found the combination of ingredients intriguing and came away with a better all-purpose method for browning and cooking sausage. I’m including a link to the show’s website, which, if you’re not a registered user, requires you to sign up. Registration is free. It’s worth the time and this page has an informative article on cooking sausages.

https://www.americastestkitchen.com/print/recipes/8420-italian-sausage-with-grapes-and-balsamic-vinegar

I served the sausages with my aunt’s Italian potato pie, but they would also go well with polenta.

Italian Sausage with Grapes and Balsamic Vinegar (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

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INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise (3 cups)
1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/8” thin
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2-3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet or sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Arrange sausages in pan and cook, turning once, until browned on 2 sides, about 5 minutes.

Browned sausages
Browned sausages

2. Take off the heat, tilt skillet and carefully remove excess fat with paper towel.

3. Return the pan to the stove and distribute grapes and onion over and around sausages.

Adding grapes and onions
Adding grapes and onions

4. Add water and immediately cover. Cook over medium heat, turning sausages once, until they register between 160 and 165 degrees and onions and the grapes have softened, about 10 minutes.

Softened grapes and onions
Softened grapes and onions

5. Transfer sausages to paper towel–lined plate and tent with aluminum foil.

6. Return skillet to medium-high heat and stir pepper and salt into grape-onion mixture. Spread grape-onion mixture in even layer in skillet and cook without stirring until browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

Cooking grapes and onions
Cooking grapes and onions

7. When browned, stir and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is well browned and grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Browning onions
Browning onions

8. Reduce heat to medium, stir in wine and oregano, and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until wine is reduced by half, 30 to 60 seconds.

Browned onions
Browned onions
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After deglazing pan with wine.

9. Return sausages to the pan to heat briefly.

Sausages returned to the pan
Sausages returned to the pan

10. Remove pan from heat and stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with mint and serve.

Finished dish
Finished dish

Wine Pairing: Dry Riesling, Morellino di Scansano

Stewed Sausages with Fennel and Tomato

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Owing to our work schedules, Saturdays are typically filled with running errands and housekeeping. As a result on these days, I often look for dishes that are relatively easy to prepare and that can cook on their own while we catch our breath and linger over an aperitivo.

I came across this recipe on the Food and Wine website and thought it would be perfect for a wintry Saturday evening. Including prep, it only requires about an hour and a half and as the sausages cook, the aromas tantalize the appetite.

I’ve modified the original recipe slightly, reducing the number of sausages to 6 from 12 and the number of fennel bulbs from 3 to 2. The recipe recommends serving with creamy polenta and here, I opted for a quick-cooking 5 minute version.

The prep
The prep

Stewed Sweet Sausages in Fennel-Tomato Sauce adapted from Food and Wine.com

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 sweet Italian sausages (about 2 pounds)
2 large fennel bulbs—trimmed, each bulb cut into 8 wedges, fronds chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
Kosher salt
One 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed, juices reserved
1 cup dry white wine
2 whole chiles de árbol

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Add the sausages and cook over medium heat, turning, until nicely browned all over, 5 minutes. (Don’t rush this step, but also be careful not to overcook the sausages at this point.)

Transfer to a plate.

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Browned sausages

Add the fennel wedges to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.

Browning the fennel
Browning the fennel

Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, until the fennel is lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

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After adding the onion and garlic

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the wine, and chiles.

With the tomatoes, wine, and chili
With the tomatoes, wine, and chiles

Tuck the sausages into the sauce.

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During the last 45 minutes of cooking

Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the sausages are cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 45 minutes longer.

Garnish the stew with fennel fronds and serve over polenta.

Wine Pairing: Dolcetto d’Alba, Merlot

Grilled Fennel Sausage and Peperonata

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I cannot count the number of times I’ve prepared Italian fennel sausages. Last night, however, influenced by some cooking show, I opted to grill rather than fry them. Not as fortunate as the show’s chef, who used an open fire, I was limited to a stovetop grill pan. Yet despite this restraint, I’m happy to report that this grilling method yielded thoroughly cooked links that were delectably moist and juicy.

To grill the sausages, I made a shallow slit, about a 1/4-inch deep, lengthwise along one side of each sausage and spread it slightly open to expose the meat. I then placed the sausages slit-side down on a hot grill pan over medium-high heat and cooked them for 5 minutes. When they were nicely browned, I turned and cooked the sausages for about an additional 5 minutes.

I served the sausages accompanied by this classic peperonata inspired by my Neapolitan aunt.

Peperonata
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 bell peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips (I prefer red, yellow, and orange to green)
1 large sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
3 small cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon dry Marsala

In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the sliced peppers and cook them, tossing occasionally, over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until they start to become tender and slightly charred.

Add the sliced onion and garlic, sprinkle with some salt, and cook them with the peppers, still over medium-high heat, for about another 10 minutes, again tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Add the Marsala, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. and cook for an additional minute or so. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Pairing the peperonta with the grilled sausages makes a perfect weekday supper as we start to enter fall.

Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Alba, Syrah

Beans and Sausage

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Earlier this month, I posted a Tuscan recipe from the Food Network for sausages and cannellini all’uccelletta that has always been one of our favorite weeknight dishes. However, I recently came across a variation on this recipe in Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian.

The ingredients are almost identical, except for fresh sage leaves replacing fresh bay; however, in preparing this dish, Hazan skips the browning of the sausages and opts to braise them slowly along with the beans and tomatoes. (This also makes for a less messy stove top.)

This small variation makes for a big difference in taste. I found that both the sauce and the beans take on more flavor from the sausage and the sausages themselves are moister and richer in texture.

Of course, the southern Italian in me added just a pinch of Calabrian red-pepper flakes to spice things up a bit.

Beans and Sausage (Salsicce e Fagioli) adapted from Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
3 large garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 can (16 ounce) crushed Italian tomatoes
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch dried red-pepper flakes
1 pound sweet Italian pork sausages (without fennel seeds)

Put the olive oil and garlic in a heavy bottomed sauté pan large enough to hold the sausages in a single layer. Place it over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic cloves until lightly browned on all sides.

When the garlic has browned, discard it and add the chopped sage to the pan and cook stirring for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and beans. Season with salt and black pepper, keeping in mind that the sausages are already fairly salty. Add a pinch of dried red pepper flakes.

After adding the sausage to the pan
After adding the sausage to the pan

Add the sausage. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook at a gentle simmer until the sausages feel tender when pricked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Check the pan occasionally and add a little water if all the liquid in the pan evaporates before the sausages are done. Also turn the sausages once with tongs, being careful not to pierce them.

Serve hot, drizzled with additional extra virgin olive oil and accompanied by crusty bread.

Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Asti, Rosso di Montalcino