I like to use Toulouse sausages for this recipe (or at least English versions of Toulouse sausage) but I wish to make it very clear that this is dish has no connection with cassoulet. I went to Castelnaudary fairly recently and I now realise just how seriously that dish is taken. My internal picture of Castelnaudary is a little like this:
La Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary would see it differently.
This should warm up 2 hungry people on a very cold day.
100 g pancetta cubes or lardons (one of the small packs you can get in the supermarket is just the right size)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ - 1 tsp paprika
½ glass red wine
400 g tin of chopped tomatoes
400 g tin cannellini beans
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp tomato purée
6 Toulouse sausages (that is English-sized sausages)
1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
A few chopped leaves of oregano
2 – 3 handfuls of breadcrumbs (any sort will work, but really crisp ones are best – like the ones you can buy rather than make)
Preheat the oven 170°C (for a fan oven).
Add half of the pancetta cubes to a large frying pan and fry until some of the fat is released. Add the onion and allow to soften for a few minutes. Add the garlic and continue fry for another minute or so – be gentle and don’t let the onion or garlic brown. Stir in the paprika and then deglaze with the red wine. When the wine has all but disappeared add the tomatoes, the sugar, sherry vinegar and tomato purée. Drain the beans and add to the pan with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Simmer this mixture very gently for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, get another frying pan and brown the sausages in a little oil. When lightly browned all over, cut each sausage into 3 or 4 pieces. Transfer the bean and tomato mix to a casserole dish and push the sausage pieces down into it. If the mixture seems a little dry at this point, add a dash or two of water.
Now make a topping. Finely chop the rest of the pancetta and put into a bowl. Add the parmesan, breadcrumbs and oregano to the bowl and mix them together thoroughly. Sprinkle the topping over the bean mix as evenly as is reasonable and place the casserole in the oven, uncovered, for about 45 minutes until the sausages are fully cooked, the flavours have mingled thoroughly and the topping is nice and brown.