I’m a little obsessed with bean gratins. These cozy make-ahead suppers (or side dishes) are satisfying and economical, and they can take as little as twenty minutes to get into the oven. This Mediterranean-inspired version relies on a handful of ordinary ingredients—cooked beans (from scratch or a can), sautéed onions, sausage, canned tomatoes, and parsley—but somehow it all bakes up into one of those dishes that I can’t get enough of. It seems to get better with every bite, especially if that bite includes some of the crunchy bread crumb and cheese topping.
If I serve this as a main course, I include a vegetable on the side. It also makes a hearty side for a juicy roast of lamb or beef, and it’s a good choice on a buffet because it holds up well and tastes just as good warm as hot. If you fall hard for this gratin, I encourage you to consider it as a starting point to come up with your own combinations.
Get ahead: The gratin can be prepared through Step 4 up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or so.
About 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 links fresh Italian sausage (about 8 ounces), hot or sweet, casings removed
1 medium yellow onion (about 7 ounces), coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch of mellow red pepper flakes, such as Marash or Aleppo, or crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 3 1/2 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini or Great Northern, drained, or two 15-ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained
One 14 1/2-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup bread crumbs or panko crumbs
2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
Hot sauce such as Cholula or Tabasco for serving (optional)
Heat the oven to 325°F convection (350°F non-convection) with a rack in the upper third. Lightly oil a medium gratin dish, shallow baking dish, or ovenproof skillet (10-inch works).
Cook the sausage. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and use a spoon or metal spatula to flatten it into large chunks. (You get better browning on large flat chunks than crumbles.) Then cook, flipping it occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Break the sausage into bite-size pieces and transfer it to the gratin or baking dish (or skillet), leaving the fat and drippings behind in the pan. You should have a generous tablespoon of fat in the pan. If there is more, discard some; if less, add a little more olive oil.
Sauté the aromatics. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the onion, season with a pinch of salt, and cook until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and a few good grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring, until just fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the aromatics to the gratin dish.
Assemble the gratin. Add the beans, tomatoes, with their juice, and parsley to the sausage and onions in the baking dish. (I like to combine everything directly in the baking dish to avoid dirtying a mixing bowl, but if you find it awkward, by all means, use a large bowl.) Stir gently to combine without smashing the beans, then add a generous pour of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), and season boldly with salt and pepper. Taste, being sure to taste both the aromatics and a bean, and correct the seasoning as needed. Use the back of a spoon to spread the bean mixture into an even layer.
Bake the gratin. Sprinkle the top of the beans with the bread crumbs and cheese. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake, uncovered, until heated through and beginning to brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. If the top is not as brown and crisp looking as you like, slide the gratin under the broiler for a few minutes before serving. Serve hot or warm, passing hot sauce at the table, if you like.
Recipe & photograph from All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice by Molly Stevens. Copyright © 2019 by Molly Stevens. Photograph © 2019 by Jennifer May. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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