Italian Stew with Escarole, White Beans and Fresh Sausage

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After exhaustion set in from the day’s cycylocross racing, and the weather turned cold and rainy, Sunday evening seemed like the perfect time to whip up a big pot of stew. I found this recipe from Dani Lind in the current issue of Edible Madison. I was hoping to find escarole at the farmers’ market on Saturday, but had no such luck. According to one vendor we spoke with, the local escarole crop didn’t fare so well this year. This stew was easy to whip up and didn’t require much cooking time—which was fortunate, because we were ravenously hungry. The bulk of the prep time is spent mixing up and cooking the sausages. The flavor in the stew is excellent, and it’s just chock-full of greens. The cherry tomatoes are also a wonderful surprise—bursting with flavor and warmth. And we had plenty of leftovers, which is always a good thing for the start of a new work week.

Italian Stew with Escarole, White Beans and Fresh Sausage (From Edible Madison, Fall 2014; serves 6)

1 lb. ground pork
1 yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. each fresh chopped rosemary, sage and thyme
1 tsp. fennel seed
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive or local sunflower oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
½ cup dry white wine
1 medium head escarole, carefully washed and coarsely chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cups cooked and drained (or 1 can) white beans
Fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme for garnish

In a medium bowl or a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine pork with 3 tablespoons of the minced onion, half of the garlic, and all the spices and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Form into 2-inch balls and slightly flatten them into fat patties. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and cook the sausages for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until browned on the outside and cooked through. Remove sausages to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Add remaining onion to hot fat in pan and sauté for a couple minutes, scraping up browned bits from the sausage. Add remaining garlic and cherry tomatoes; sauté for another couple minutes. Turn heat up to high and add white wine, escarole, stock and beans.

Bring to a simmer and cook just long enough to wilt greens and warm beans. Add sausages back to the pan, adjust seasoning as desired, garnish and serve.

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