White Beans and Sausage

White cannellini beans with Italian sausage in a plum tomato sauce.

white beans and sausage
Elise Bauer

Who says you need spaghetti for spaghetti sauce?

A quick and easy Italian sausage spaghetti sauce works beautifully with white beans as well as pasta. And it's a great way to lower the carb content and up the protein of the dish without sacrificing flavor.

You can either cook the beans from scratch on the stove (we're using a Tuscan approach found in Saveur Magazine), cook them in a pressure cooker, or use canned beans.

white beans and sausage
Elise Bauer

By the way, you know how they always say to "rinse and drain" the beans if using canned beans? That's only because if the cans have been on the shelf for a while they can sometimes absorb a metallic flavor from the can.

But if your can of beans is freshly bought, this may not be the case, and there can be plenty of flavor in the bean soaking water. So, taste! If the bean water tastes good, use it. If not, don't.

White Beans and Sausage

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Soaking and Cooking Beans from Scratch 6 hrs
Total Time 6 hrs 25 mins
Servings 4 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • OR
  • 4 15-ounce cans cannellini beans
  • 5 tablespoons extra olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3-4 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • Salt (about 2 teaspoons) and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preparing dry beans if using:

  1. Rinse and soak the beans:

    Rinse the dry beans under cold running water, removing any stones you may find. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with at least a couple of inches with cold water. Soak for at least 4 hours. (To do a quick soak, you can pour boiling water over the beans and cover by a couple of inches, and just soak for one hour instead of four.)

  2. Cook beans with aromatics:

    Drain the beans. Return the beans to the pot and add 3 quarts of water to the pot. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the sage leaves, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 3 teaspoons kosher salt, and the peppercorns. Cover, bring to a simmer on medium heat, and simmer beans for one hour. Lower the heat so that the beans are barely simmering. Cook for an additional 1-2 hours, or until beans are just tender. Note that the fresher the beans the shorter the cooking time, the older the beans the longer the cooking time. Remove from heat and let cool in cooking liquid. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the rest from the beans.

Preparing canned beans if using:

Taste the liquid in the cans of beans. If it tastes good (and it should), drain the beans and reserve 1/2 a cup of the bean liquid. If the liquid doesn't taste good (which may happen if the can has been sitting around too long), discard the liquid and use 1/2 cup of water instead of the bean liquid in the next step.

Preparing the beans and sausage:

  1. Cook the sausage:

    Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Remove sausages from their casings (if the sausage has come in casings), and cook in the skillet until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes.

    cook sausage for white beans and sausage
    Elise Bauer
    cook sausage in pan
    Elise Bauer
  2. Add the reserved bean cooking (or can) liquid, 4 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, chopped tomatoes, and red pepper flakes:

    stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

    add tomatoes to white beans and sausage
    Elise Bauer
  3. Add the reserved beans and tomato purée:

    Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer a few minutes longer, stirring gently, until sausage is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Be careful not to break up the beans.

    add white beans to sausage in pan
    Elise Bauer