Thursday, 20 October 2011

Italian Sausage & Bean Casserole

DH's family are from Sicily.  We spend ALOT of time eating or thinking about Italian food.  Although I give it a good shot apparently no-one comes close to his Nonna's pasta dishes.   Probably because I'm always looking for ways to reduce the fat or cut the calories to make it less sinful. 

In Sicily we eat Italian sausage with crusty bread and salad dressed in olive oil & lemon juice.  The sausage is usually just pure pork, salt & pepper, sometimes flavoured with chilli or fennel.  But that is pretty much it.  You can pick up good Italian sausages in your local Italian deli and they are really worth trying as the flavour is unique.  Sadly pork sausages are just something I cannot indulge in mid-week when trying to stick to my WeightWatchers plan.

Until now I have yet to find a decent Italian sausage in a supermarket.  I am absolutely delighted to have recently found a gem at my local Waitrose deli counter.  It is not only deliciously tasty with it's fennel flavouring, but is made with 43% veal so is much lower in fat!  Hurrah!  A sausage I can finally enjoy (ahem).  Unfortunately I have yet to lay my hands on any nutritional info, so I have approximated the ProPoint values based on the % of pork and veal that make up the sausage. 

Onto the recipe.  This is one that I have taken from the fabulous BBC Good Food Mag. I usually can't resit meddling with a recipe, but I've got to say I pretty much followed this one.  After reading the reviews, I upped the sausage content to 300g (x3 of the Waitrose Italian sausage) and increased the stock (I used chicken stock) to 500ml.  Instead of serving with crusty bread or mash potato, I added 60g of orzo pasta to cook through with the meatballs to really fill out the meal, negating the need, or the temptation to demolish a whole ciabatta as a side. Ok so maybe I did meddle more than I thought!

You can get the original BBC Good Food recipe by clicking here but my version is also detailed below.

You'll need for 2:
  • Half a large red onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 Waitrose Italian sausages (300g)
  • 1 tin of borlotti beans, drained
  • 1 tin of cherry tomatoes in juice
  • 500ml chicken or veg stock
  • 100g green beans, halved
  • 60g orzo pasta
  • Parmesan to serve

What to do:

Heat a non-stick frying pan or stir frying pan.  Remove the casing from the sausages and break them up into small meatballs.  I got 6 out of each sausage.  Spray with oil and fry on a high heat to brown all over.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and chilli to the pan.  Turn the heat down to slowly cook the onions.  Add some salt to help bring out some of the moisture.  When soft add the tinned cherry tomatoes and stock.  Allow to bubble away for a few minutes.

Add the borlotti beans and the green beans.  I prepared everything in advance to this stage and when the meatballs were cool I put them in the fridge until needed.  If you do this just cover up the sauce and bring it back up to a boil when required.

Next add the orzo and a little more stock if need be, but 500ml should be about right.  Add the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes on a low heat so you do not reduce the sauce down to nothing.  When the orzo is cooked through, taste and season accordingly, then serve up with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13 including parmesan, 12 without parmesan

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