White Bean Cassoulet and Sausage with Pistou
I can honesty say that we (my hubby and I) can live on peasant food like this. Peasant food is really scraps or leftovers and usually includes accessible inexpensive foods that are cooked down and made to taste so good. Originally cassoulet was really that kind of food. Beans cooked in some form of broth and with some sort of meat or even preserved meat from chicken, duck to mutton.
This is a classic French dish that has so many versions and styles of making it. This is my favorite way to eat it. I think the sausages add a beautiful flavour to the broth and overall dish. No claims of authenticity here but definitely going to claim tastiness, heartiness and a great dish to bring to the table, break bread with and share a couple of glasses of wine over.
Let’s talk about the beans first off. Any white beans would work beautifully. I love butter beans and that’s why I use them for so many of my bean recipes like fasolatha and gigantes plaki. You can tell I’m a bean girl! Cannellini beans also work very well here too though. Using canned makes this dish super quick and easy. But I will admit that using dried and soaked beans is always more flavourful. So use whichever option you prefer. I use the canned if I’m making this during the week. But if it’s the weekend and I have more time, I will use the dry, soaking them overnight and slow cooking them with the rest of the ingredients until nice and tender.
Now for the sausages. I used these beautiful tomato basil sausages from Delmano a local company that makes the best all meat and no filler sausages. The flavours in the sausages go perfectly with this dish especially with the Pistou! Perfect! What I wanted to mention though was that you can brown or sauté them right from the start in the same pot you will cook the beans in so that the whole pot gets the wonderful flavours from the brown bits they leave behind. If you’re going that route, once they are cooked remove them from the pan and add more EVOO and butter reducing amounts depending on how much oil is left behind from the sausages. Then deglaze the pan by adding the onions and veggies. Either way works well but I usually do them separate as I have written in the recipe. It kind of saves a little time (or it feels like it does anyways) because I can sauté them while the beans are cooking.
Now for the pistou. Or shall we call its pesto’s twin or is it cousin? They are very similar and I will leave it at that without starting a war. This is my take on it using both basil and spinach for extra green and extra nutrition. It’s so deliciously flavourful and I love it over the cassoulet and I also love to top soups with it too!
There’s a million variations to this too. You can alter it if you’re nut free or dairy free by just omitting. I didn’t have fresh spinach at the time so I used frozen and it was all the same in the food processor. Using the food processor is so unauthentic when it comes to pistou, but it sure does the job and does it quickly. More authentic would be to use a mortar and pestle to grind everything and release all the aromatics from the herbs and garlic. I’m pretty happy with the flavour outcome of the food processor though so I’m sticking with that.
This is an any season dish full of comfort and really makes a belly happy. It’s also super easy and pretty cost effective too. So go ahead and give it a try.
White Bean Cassoulet
- ¼ cup olive oil plus 2 tbsp extra for sautéing the sausages
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 5 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 carrots peeled and chopped
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- Whole fresh herbs including a few of stems each of rosemary and thyme (not chopped)
- 1 tsp dried oregano or fresh if available
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 4-6 tomatoes chopped or 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cans of butter beans or any other white bean rinsed or 3 cups cooked beans from dry
- 4-6 cups of chicken broth or water plus more if needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4-5 Italian sausages
Spinach and basil Pistou
- ½ cup of olive oil plus more if needed to thin out the sauce
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 3-4 cloves of garlic depending on how potent you prefer it
- ½ cup toasted almonds or pine nuts
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Directions for the cassoulet
Heat oil and butter in a large stock pot to medium heat and add in your onions, garlic, carrots and celery, parsley and herbs and let them cook stirring frequently for approx ten minutes or until lightly brown and tender
Add in the beans and stir well then add the tomatoes, paste, bay leaf and stock and bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour stirring occasionally and checking to see if more water or broth are needed.
While the beans are simmering heat a frying pan with the two tbsp of EVOO remaining to medium/high heat and sauté them until cooked through - a few minutes on each side and then remove from pan and let cool enough to slice.
Stir the sliced sausages into the beans and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
Directions for the pistou
- Add all ingredients to blender or food processor except the olive oil and process adding the EVOO gradually until smooth. Serve immediately over pistou or store in sealed container in the fridge for up to 5-7 days to add to your favourite soups or pastas