The Innovation: To recreate Fagioli all’ Uccelletto (one of my favorite dishes!) using more ingredients that I made from scratch.
I realized that I could easily improve on this recipe by using homemade and all-natural ingredients for the key components for this dish. Instead of using canned beans and tomato sauce, I used homemade sauce and raw beans that I soaked. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way I originally made the recipe for Ali and Matan – this is more a challenge for myself. I have been working to make as much from scratch as possible and to become more aware of using a wider variety of foods that are perhaps not as fancy or refined, but that still make a healthy and delicious meal.
I didn’t make the sausage from scratch – that is the only part of this dish that I bought pre-made. The tomato sauce is homemade (excepting 1 28oz can of diced tomatoes per 5 lbs of tomatoes) and I pre-soaked the beans, then simmered in the sauce for several hours. The result? A delicious dinner that the entire family enjoyed. The beans were soft and had a creamy texture, the sauce was rich, full of flavor and a little chunky, and the sausage gave the dish a heartiness that was filling but not overwhelming.
Recipe for Homemade Tomato Sauce
- 8 LG cloves garlic chopped
- 6 stalks celery rough chopped
- 1 LG Spanish onion rough chopped
- 6 fresh sage leaves roughly minced
- 1 small handful fresh tarragon leaves roughly minced
- 8 fresh basil leaves roughly minced
- Olive oil for sauteing
- 5 lb ripe Roma tomatoes (look for ones that are bright red and only the slightest bit soft or not soft at all) cut into quarters
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (look for a can that says Imported from Italy)
- 2 packages crimini mushrooms cut into halves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 of 750ml bottle of dry red wine ( I prefer Burgundy)
Heat olive oil in the bottom of a 10Qt or larger stockpot. Add garlic and onion, cook on high heat until they just start to color. Lower heat, then add celery, fresh herbs and mushrooms with the red wine, cover with the lid and leave sweat for at least 30 mins, or until vegetables look more tender. Add fresh and diced tomatoes, season with salt and pepper ( use a little now, adjust later as needed) and let cook covered at a low simmer for at least 1 and a half hours. The vegetables should be tender, and there should be a significant amount of liquid in the pot. At this point, take an immersion or hand blender and blend everything into the pot together very well, til mixture is thick and mainly smooth. Cook a bit longer, about 15 mins, then turn off the heat and allow to cool completely before storing away. This will make a large quantity of sauce – I filled 4 2lb deli containers.
Pre-soak a 2lb bag of Great Northern or cannellini beans in at least a 6Qt stockpot for a minimum of 3 hours. Drain water, then refill pot halfway with water or vegetable stock, and 2- 2lb deli containers of tomato sauce. Cook beans at a simmer for at least 3 hours, or until beans are tender but not falling apart. Check every hour or so.
Take a package of pre-made Italian sausage (or any sweet sausage, about a 1 lb worth) and cut into coins. Brown on both sides, and cook through but take care not to overcook. Add to beans and leave the mixture to sit on low for about 10 mins to allow flavors to blend. Add salt and if desired. Serve hot or at room temperature.