Fagioli all’ Uccelletto con Salsicce – literal translation ‘beans of the bird with sausage’ – Tuscany’s version of pork and beans. (I will explain the bird part shortly!)
Yesterday, the weather here was one of the first days that hinted at the approaching spring. After a day toodling around outside, I finally forced myself inside when the day began to cool. I am on my way to Tuscany in a few weeks and after spending a few hours reading up on the incredible wines of Montepulciano (more blogs on this later), decided to make something Tuscan for dinner. Not wanting to head to the market, I routed around the pantry to discover that I had everything I needed for this comforting Tuscan dish. The beans, in a light tomato sauce, are frequently made alone and served alongside roasted and stewed meats. This dish is perfect for a chilly February evening served alongside a crunchy green salad and a bottle of earthy Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Uccelletto translates to ‘little bird’ in Italian and is a reference to the way this dish is prepared which is with garlic and sage, a typical preparation for small game in Tuscany.
Well, back to my reading….I will report back as I learn more about the wines of Montepulciano for my upcoming winter retreat to Tuscany. (I am so very excited as I am staying at a wonderful little inn, La Locanda di San Francesco, www.locandasanfrancesco.it , on the top of Montepulciano. My room has sweeping views of the surrounding Val D’Orcia. The owner, Cinzia, has been a true gem in assisting me in planning my food and wine sojourn. I will have much more on this when I return. )
Fagioli all’Uccelletto con Salsicce
1 pound Italian sausage; cut into links (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes or 2 or 3 peeled fresh plum tomatoes
Cannellini beans – either 2 (15 1/2 ounce) cans, rinsed -OR- 1 pound dried, picked over
1 cup good quality chicken broth or bean-soaking water
Fresh sage, about 2 tablespoons fresh (about 6 fresh leaves)
Freshly ground pepper
1. If using dried beans, begin by placing the beans in a heavy pot with enough lightly salted cold water to cover. Boil beans until slightly tender, about 45 minutes to a hour. (Check beans after about 30 minutes as you do not want to overcook the beans. ) When done, reserve 1 cup of cooking water and drain beans.
Prepare the sausages: In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, brown the sausage over medium heat. Remove from pot and set aside.
2. Add the olive oil to the pot and when hot, add the garlic. Saute until lightly browned.
3. Add the tomatoes with juices and cook for a few minutes, allowing the tomatoes to break up.
4. Add the cooked beans. If using canned beans, add 1 cup of broth. If using dried beans, add 1 cup of soaking water.
5. Add the sage. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Simmer for about 15 minutes and add sausage to pot. Allow to simmer until the beans are soft and creamy, about 25-30 minutes in all. Add more water or broth if necessary to ensure creamy consistency.
7. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil just prior to serving and enjoy!!