On a recent trip up to Rochester, I had the pleasure of discovering a lovely little Italian place called the Mona Lisa Café. My mother and I stopped in there on a whim one afternoon for a cappuccino, but after entering the café and seeing all the delicious pastries and gelato and enticing smells of amazing food, we decided to stay for lunch instead.
We sat at a table by a large window and enjoyed a glass of wine while perusing the menu. At first we thought we would just split an appetizer, but there were just too many tasty choices on the menu to settle for just one item. We opted for a delicious Italian Panini and their amazing Greens and Beans appetizer made with escarole and cannelloni beans sautéed with heaps of garlic, savory Italian sausage, white wine, olive oil and bread crumbs topped with Parmesan cheese. WOW. Best thing I’ve ever tasted! I loved this dish so much I was inspired to recreate it at home, and my own version of Garlicky Greens and Beans with Sausage I now present to you. Delicioso!
- 2 cups Fingerling potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters or chunks
- 1 1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage (may use chicken or turkey sausage if you prefer)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 large bunch of greens (I used collards, but you can use spinach, kale, escarole, or mustard/turnip greens)
- 1 can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
- Crusty bread or garlic bread, for dipping
- Rinse and drain potatoes, cut into quarters or chunks, depending on the size.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook potatoes for about 10-12 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
- At the same time, add 1/2 inch of water to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add sausages to and cover with a lid, simmering for 10 minutes (without turning). Remove the lid, turn sausages over, and cook for another 5 minutes until almost cooked through.
- Meanwhile, measure out your liquids and dry seasonings and set aside.
- Chop the garlic.
- Wash the greens well and drain. Remove and discard the veins and stems, cutting leafy green parts off on either side into 1-inch strips.
- Remove sausages from pan and cut into coin-sized chunks. Drain fat from pan and wipe down.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil into the same pan and return to medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute while stirring often, for about 1 minute being careful not to burn garlic.
- Add additional 3 tablespoons of oil and start sauteing greens by the handful until they are just starting to wilt.
- Add cannellini beans, sausage, potatoes, broth, water and minced onion; bring ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer on low for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors meld.
- Remove lid, add 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the liquid reduces a little (you can simmer it down longer if you like a thicker stew or add more broth/water if you like a thinner stew).
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the Greens and Beans in large bowls topped with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and crusty bread for dipping in the broth.
Substitute sweet Italian sausage with chicken or turkey sausage or omit all together and adjust water/broth down to 2 cups if you prefer a vegetarian dish.
Mona Lisa Cafe uses breadcrumbs and white wine in their dish which I omitted in my version because of the starch from the potatoes and adding a splash of white wine vinegar which gives it a nice tangy flavor to the broth. Feel free to experiment by topping it with toasted breadcrumbs and using some wine in place of the water in my recipe, but you'll need to adjust the amount of liquids down if you omit the potatoes from the dish so it's not too watery/brothy. The consistency should be of a nice light stew with a balance between the meat and vegetables and the broth.
Serve with a dry white Italian wine such as Pinot Grigio and crusty bread for dipping up the broth.
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