“not a recipe” dinner–white bean, kale and sausage bowl

As I’ve said many times before, I’m a recipe person. Especially the first time I’m making something, my preference is absolutely for a nice tidy list of ingredients and instructions that I can follow to the letter. I’m highly envious of folks, like my husband, who can just follow their instincts and create something delicious without a recipe. So I’ve been interested in the trend for “not a recipe” recipes I’ve seen floating around lately, like Bon Appétit’s Cooking Without Recipes series and Food52’s new (Not)Recipes app. I like reading them, and I like looking at them, and I like wondering if a more narrative less list-y approach *really*  makes something not a recipe…but nothing pulled me to deviate from my recipe love until I saw a Bon App post titled, “Got a Can of White Beans? You’re Halfway to Dinner Tonight.” 

This particular not a recipe recipe reminded me of one of my very favorite very much a recipe recipes, Real Simple’s cannellini bean and sausage gratin (it also has the same three key ingredients as one of this winter’s favorite soups–sensing another trend!). The gratin is one of my all time fave comfort meals, and I definitely liked the idea of a stripped down and simplified version. There’s a lot less chopping, and the flavors are a bit more basic, but it still gave me the same tasty vibe. This is basically a one pot meal, and is perfect for a night when you don’t want to think too much about dinner but do want something satisfyingly healthy.


I had to laugh at myself when I thought about writing up this dinner, because I took a really simple thing and complicated it, just slightly. The truth is, I’m still no where near the kind of person who can just instinctively throw ingredients together, and the first time I made this I read the description several times while cooking…just like I would with a more typical recipe. But I did also enter into the spirit of the thing and changed things up a bit on the fly, adding in garlic (because almost everything is better with garlic) and smoked paprika for a bit more flavor. I think almost any favorite spice would be a great addition. I know I’ll never be a total not a recipe cook–there are too many gorgeous recipes out there!–but I do appreciate the nudge to color outside of the lines a bit more.

white bean, kale and sausage bowl
adapted slightly from Bon Appétit

olive oil
1 to 2 Italian sausages (the last time I made this the sausages at my market were ridiculously huge, so I just used one), removed from casing
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
white wine or chicken stock
big handfuls of washed and torn kale
smoked paprika
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add garlic and cook just a minute or two until softened. Add sausage, breaking into little pieces. When sausage is cooked through, toss in a the cannellini beans. Cook for a few minutes, until beans are heated through. If the mixture gets unappealingly dry (or if you just want to add a little extra flavor), add a splash of white wine or chicken stock. Add several handfuls of torn kale–last time, I went with three big handfuls–and stir together. Season with salt and pepper, a shake of red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Once kale is wilted as much as you like your kale wilted, add a squeeze of lemon. Grate parm all over, and serve.

Serves one very happily for dinner with lunch leftovers. Before packing up my leftovers, if I’m feeling like being especially virtuous, I like to wilt in another handful or two of kale.


2 thoughts on ““not a recipe” dinner–white bean, kale and sausage bowl

  1. Pingback: post about toast | butter poached

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