January 18, 2016

Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Ragu

I apologize for the delay in new recipes, but I've been a little busy exploring the beautiful city of Rome. I'll do my best to post pictures here and on Twitter if you would like to keep up. To summarize, the buildings are beautiful, the monuments are amazing, and the food is even better than I expected. I honestly spent two hours wandering around one of the few supermarkets here in awe of the aisles and aisles of fresh pasta, fresh mozzarella, gorgeous produce, and crackly baked goods. As for eating in restaurants, I've been sticking to the classic local dish pasta all'amatriciana (I still think my recipe is the best) as well as long rectangular pizzas that they cut and weigh to your preference. With all of these delicious carbs and creamy cheeses, it's a little difficult to get in my fruits and vegetables, which is why I try to add them into the sauces and other dishes I cook at home. You can use this same mentality to keep up with your resolutions, especially since after 18 days you can and should treat yourself to some pasta. And if you love this flavor combination, you can cut out the carbs entirely and try it in stew form.

This recipe is essentially a tomato sauce loaded with white beans, kale, sausage, fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, and a splash of red wine. I cook mine mostly in a crockpot since I can leave everything there to bubble away for a few hours without worrying about scorching or overflowing. However, it only needs to cook for less than three hours, so the recipe can also work on the stovetop.

I always start this sauce on the stove anyway since the sausage is so much better when you brown it. Not only does it crisp the sides and add complex flavors through Maillard browning, it oozes out flavorful fat to cook the onions in so the sausage permeates the whole dish. After the sausage is browned, cooled, and sliced, I toss the onions into the same skillet with some garlic and tomato paste to soak up all the fatty goodness. I know this is supposed to be healthy but you would have just wasted it anyway so you might as well use it.

After the sausage and onions are cooked, it's time to break out the crockpot. Or, you know, just use the same big pot (in that case use a pot for the sausage and onions instead of a skillet so you can keep all the crispy browned bits). I combine canned crushed tomatoes, red wine, fresh diced tomatoes, herbs, the sausage, and the onion/garlic/tomato paste mixture. After that all simmers together for a few hours, I stir in the beans, which don't need to cook for the full amount of time or they'll get mushy. After that addition simmers for a while, I stir in the kale, which only needs to cook for about 30 minutes. You could blanch it beforehand to preserve the color, but it all gets mixed into the red sauce anyway and I personally don't think it's worth the effort. By the time you mix it in with some pasta (go for whole wheat or quinoa pasta if you're staying healthy) and grab a fork, you won't even care.

1 Small Yellow Onion, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 T Tomato Paste
2 28oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes
1/2 lb Plum Tomatoes, Diced
1/2 Cup Red Wine
1 Sprig Fresh Rosemary
3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 lb Spicy Italian Sausage
1/2 Bunch Kale, Chopped
1 Can Cannellini Beans, Drained & Rinsed

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage and brown on all sides. Remove from the skillet and slice when cool.

Heat the skillet and add the onions. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.

Pour the crushed tomatoes and red wine into a crockpot. Add the onion mixture, tomatoes, and herbs. Stir in the sausage, season with salt and pepper, and cook on low for 2 hours. Add the beans and cook for 1 hour. Stir in the kale and cook for 30 minutes. Serve over pasta.

Serves 6-8
Recipe Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

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