Cannellini Bean and Sausage Cassoulet

Cannellini Bean and Sausage Cassoulet is a great meal to prepare on a rainy Saturday afternoon. With soaking and cooking the dried beans, it took several hours, but the end product was well worth the wait. I could have been lazy by using canned cannellini beans, but these huge deliciously buttery runner cannellini beans were heartier and did not get mushy in the oven. Mama prepared this meal this weekend too! We periodically cook the same recipe to compare tips and ideas. With Mama being in Michigan it makes me feel a little bit closer to her. Until yesterday I did not even know what a cassoulet was. With a bit of research I learned it is a French meat and bean casserole traditionally prepared in a deep, round pot. I should have guessed it was French in origin. Mama, the French teacher, picked it out. Although it will never replace someone’s presence, if you live far from loved ones, consider starting a long-distance cooking club. Bon appetit!

Ingredients: 

Beans and Sausage-

3 cups dried runner cannellini beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 fresh hot Italian chicken sausage links (about 2 pounds)
1 leek (white and pale-green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, crushed with your hands
7 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
Mama’s Cassoulet
Breadcrumbs-
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (or a tablespoon dried parsley)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions:

Beans and Sausage-

Place beans in a large pot and cover with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

Drain beans. Add fresh water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender but not mushy, 1 1/2–2 hours. Drain, reserving 1 cup bean broth.

Preheat oven to 450°. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until golden all over, 7–8 minutes. Transfer sausage to a plate and set aside.

Place 1 Tbsp. oil, leek, and onion in same pot. Season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and paprika; stir constantly until paste is caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add reserved 1 cup bean broth, beans, chicken broth, and next 4 ingredients; bring to a boil.

Cover and bake until beans are very tender, about 30 minutes. Add sausage (and any accumulated juices) to pot, pressing to submerge. Bake until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened, 40–45 minutes longer.

Breadcrumbs-
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove 2 bay leaves. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over beans and drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil. Bake cassoulet until breadcrumbs are browned and liquid is bubbling, about 12 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes. Sprinkle dried or parsley and lemon zest over just before serving.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
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