wine night: sausage, white bean, and kale fusilli

I often get a surprised reaction when people learn that I like to read cook books cover to cover, much like one would a novel. I like how cook books tell a story (the good ones, at least). It's not just a book of recipes to me, but a source of inspiration. When you treat it as a book and not as a reference, you can really feel the author's cooking techniques, heritage, and passion. Yes, I frequently cook the recipes, but lately, as I become more and more accustomed to creating my own dishes in the kitchen, I use the recipes, stories, and techniques from cook books as a starting point, adding a twist or personality of my own.

Take for instance a few weeks ago for Wine Night:  We had a beautiful bag of fusilli from Eataly in our pantry so I knew I wanted to use that. But it was also freezing outside (what's new) which had me wanting something hearty. I remembered reading in my beloved Dinner: A Love Story cookbook about an easy weeknight stew of sausage, white beans and kale. I figured I could just use less chicken stock, add in my pasta and voila dinner was done.

It turned out beautifully. The artisan pasta was the real star - it had enough bite to withstand the classic combination of bitter kale, rich sausage, and buttery white beans. Al and I gobbled it up. More so than we usually do on Wine Nights, which is saying something since we're usually starving for dinner (we don't eat dinner until 8:30 or 9pm most nights). I don't even think we spoke while we ate - except murmurs of "ohh" and "good". Al said it reminded him of something he'd order in a restaurant - one of my favorite compliments to receive. It was pretty good, I'll admit.

Best part about this dish is that it only took about half an hour - maybe a little longer if you count prepping the kale (for some reason de-stemming kale is such a chore to me). A perfect weeknight meal, but good enough for a dinner party. And really easy - just slowly adding stuff to a pot and stirring once in awhile. This one is a must make for your Wine Nights!

Here's how you make it (full recipe at bottom of the post)...

First, the ingredients:  1 pound of sausage meat (I love that you can buy it out of the casings now), 1 bunch of de-stemmed and washed kale, 1 can white beans, 1 can diced tomatoes, chicken broth (or stock), half an onion, two cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, a little red wine vinegar, and most importantly the really awesome pasta (we got this brand from Eataly, I can't find the exact kind on the Eataly website). Oh! and of course the lovely inspiration behind all of it - my Dinner: A Love Story book.  It also helps to sip a negroni while you cook (also pictured). Not pictured:  olive oil, salt and pepper.

Next, heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add some olive oil.

When the oil starts to shimmer, add your diced onion and a pinch of salt.  Saute until almost softened, about three minutes.

While the onion cooks, it's a good time to get your pot of water on for your pasta. Once it boils, liberally salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions, removing it from heat about 2 minutes before al dente. Save about a half of cup of pasta water.

When the onion is soft, add in red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and the minced garlic and cook one minute until fragrant. Then add your sausage meat and brown while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage is cooked through about five minutes. (Sausage photo not shown because raw meat is not pretty).

After your meat is browned, add in your canned tomatoes, canned white beans, and chicken broth. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. It' will be a little hard to see the boil because there isn't a lot of liquid in the pot. But watch it and look for the bubbles.

Once boiling, add in the kale and stir until katle begins to wilt. It looks like a lot of kale at first, but it will start wilting quickly.

Add a splash of red wine vinegar and stir in your cooked fusilli pasta, adding a little pasta water as needed to thin out the "sauce". Cook two minutes so the flavors can combine and the pasta can finish cooking.

Top with the parmesan cheese and a serve with a (big) glass of Tuscan sangiovese.

Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Fusilli
Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook
Serves:  6


  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage meat (if you buy the kind in links, remove the casings)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, and torn into small pieces
  • Drizzle of red wine vinegar (1 to 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 lb. fusilli or short cut pasta (look for an 'artisinal' or handmade kind. you want it to be the star)


  1. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil.
  2. When the oil is hot and starts to shimmer, add onion and salt. Saute until almost softened, about three minutes.
  3. While the onion cooks, set a large pot of salted water on top boil for your pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions, removing it from the water about two minutes before it is al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water (you probably won't need the entire half cup of the pasta water).
  4. Once the onion is soft, add in red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and garlic and cook one minute until fragrant.
  5. Add in sausage meat and brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it is cooked through, about five minutes.
  6. Add in canned tomatoes, beans (don't forget to drain and rinse the beans!), and chicken broth. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
  7. Add in kale and stir until kale wilts down. 
  8. Add in pasta and cook for two minutes.
  9. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Pairs nicely with a Tuscan sangiovese wine.

Nutrition: (per serving)

  • Calories:  670
  • Carbs:  74
  • Fat:  28
  • Protein:  31



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