Weeknight Friendly Meals: Quick Italian Cassoulet

pastaandbeansWould you be willing to spend an extra $3 in a restaurant for a really good dish? Most times, we don’t think about it but when we are in the supermarket, we might be looking at the difference between $4.99 and $4.59. If you could create a quick meal at home that tastes just as good as a restaurant, would you spend an extra couple of bucks?

A friend of mine is creating a blog highlighting value items for the home; it includes everything from wine to rugs. It made me think about value items in the supermarket.

I recently bought the Mario Batali’s marinara sauce. Yes, I do buy jarred sauce but only if it’s good. Now don’t squawk but this probably costs $9 per jar. However, the flavor is so much better than the store-brand that you might be buying. To me the value is the flavor; it’s almost as good as my homemade sauce and the taste is fantastic. This was evidenced by the empty plates tonight after dinner.

Let’s talk about why this particular dish is so good. You can rehydrate dried beans in less than 3 hours (check this article I wrote about how to do it) or you can make it easy and buy canned beans. For this dish, use cannellini (white kidney) or small white beans. The dish is incredibly simple and delicious. It’s really a matter of simmering the ingredients together. The reason it tasted so good was because of the quality of the sauce. It was worth it.

Below is a picture I took of a dish we had in Italy. I’m sure the beans, sausage and tomato sauce were fresh. If you want to take a cheap trip to Italy (ok, you’ll have to close your eyes and imagine), try the recipe below. Enjoy.IMG_1150

Tuscan Beans and Sausage in Northern Italy

Quick Italian Cassoulet-Sausage and Beans

2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cans cannellini or small white beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 jar Mario Batali Marinara sauce (or 2-3 cups homemade)
4 Italian chicken sausages, like Trader Joe’s Spinach and Fontina
1/4 c grated Italian cheese like parmesan, romano or peccorino

Optional: serve with penne pasta, cooked separately
Optional: pesto or chopped parsley for garnish

1. Place olive oil and garlic in a pot. Heat pot to medium. Once garlic begins to cook, give it a stir and cook 1 minute.
2. Add beans and cook for 1 minute. Add sauce, sausage and 1/2 c water. Cover the pot and simmer 20 minutes. Remove the cover toward the end if the dish is very watery. Add salt if needed.
3. Serve with a side of pasta or bread and a dollup of pesto or chopped parsley. Top with cheese.
4. Close your eyes and say “Bellissima!” (very good).

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