Tuscan sausage stew combines pork sausages with beans and kale in a fresh tomato-based sauce. I suppose it is similar to a French cassoulet, but much simpler and fresher, using Italian ingredients and techniques. While a cassoulet takes an age to make and could floor a rhino with its richness, a classic Tuscan casserole is the opposite of all that. Fresh ingredients, tons of flavour, bursts of colour and a rapid cook is what defines a great Tuscan ‘spezzatino‘.
Many (most) recipes for Tuscan sausage stew suggest slicing the sausages. This is a dumb idea. They will just break down and leave you with pork mince. It is better to leave them whole. The exception to that would be a classic ‘zuppa Toscana,’ which is a completely different dish, and is a proper soup of crumbled sausage with bread used as a thickener – similar to the rice-based minestrone.
Spezzatino di salsiccia Toscana
- 1 tbsp lard
- 8–12 pork sausages (2 or 3 per diner; if you can get genuine Tuscan sausages, then great)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 stick of celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Small handful of fresh sage leaves, finely sliced (chiffonade)
- 500g cherry tomatoes, halved (see notes)
- 380g cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 500ml chicken stock
- 150g cavolo nero or curly kale, chopped up a bit with large stems removed
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the lard in a frying pan and brown the sausages on all sides. Remove the sausages to a plate. Reserve the fat.
Heat the olive oil in a large casserole and pour in the reserved lard and any pan scrapings. Sauté the onions, celery and carrots until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute further. Add the browned sausages and all the other ingredients. Season and simmer on low for about 20 mins.
Canned chopped tomatoes are also fine in a pinch.