This Italian Sausage and Beans recipe is pure stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.
The navy beans cook in a rich Italian seasoned tomato sauce that becomes infused by the slow-cooking Italian sausage.
This is a simple slow cooker or instant pot meal that is perfect for a midweek family dinner.
My inspiration for Sausage and Beans
It was only after my family “cut the cord” from cable and I was forced to watch free local channels that I learned of this fabulous sausage and beans recipe.
Don’t get me wrong, our cable didn't go down without a fight. I had quite the Food Network and Cooking Channel addiction.
But as I quickly learned, one of our local channels, Create TV, has tons of cooking shows. And, as it turns out, I like these shows more!
There are no shows with contestants scrambling around with a grocery cart to find random ingredients for what ends up being a weird dish you'd never, ever make.
The chefs on this channel are actually teaching you how to cook. How novel!
It is on this channel that I saw Nick Stellino—an Italian chef who I find delightful to watch—make his version of sausage and beans, or as he calls it, salsiccia e fagioli.
This dish reminded me of a far more "low-brow" dish that I used to eat frequently growing up, involving baked beans and cut up hot dogs. Looking back, I have a feeling that "beans and wienies" (or "beanie wienies") could have been very loosely based on the authentic Italian sausage and beans recipe Nick Stellino made.
I've adapted it so you can make it in the slow-cooker or instant pot, so this makes an incredibly easy meal that's perfect for busy weeknights.
Ingredients for Sausage and Beans
We use pork Italian sausage links for this dish. Our preference is hot Italian sausage, but you could use mild or even sweet.
And you don't have to use pork: if you'd like to lighten up this dish slightly, you could use turkey or even chicken.
Nick uses already cooked cannellini beans (because his is a quick stovetop recipe), but my preference is to start with dry navy beans. The beans become infused with the flavor of the sausages and an amazing Italian tomato sauce while they slow-cook.
Our sausage and beans sauce involves diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste, white wine, and chicken broth. In a very inauthentic twist, I also add Asian fish sauce, which is a fabulous hack for building umami into sauces.
You won't taste fish at all, I promise. But if you find this idea off-putting, feel free to leave the fish sauce out.
We build rich, complex flavor into the sauce with onion and garlic, fresh rosemary and sage, a bay leaf, and a bit of dried Italian herbs (and then the simmering sausages do their part to deepen the flavor even more).
How to make Italian sausage and beans
I developed this recipe for the Instant Pot, which brings up a question that a lot of people ask me...
Can I use my Instant Pot as a slow-cooker?
Like anything on the interwebs, there's plenty of conflicting information out there about this question. Some sources rave that yes, you absolutely can. Others say absolutely don't (for example, Why You Should NOT Use Your Instant Pot as a Slow-Cooker).
In my personal experience, I find that the slow-cooker setting on the Instant Pot works just fine, as long as you realize that the settings won't be the same. For example, although I've set a slow-cooker on low to cook beans in eight hours, the low setting on the Instant Pot will not get the job done for you (but the high setting will!).
And the advantage to the Instant Pot is that you can also use it brown the sausages and saute the aromatics rather than dirtying another pot. Win!
Let's talk about the steps.
First, brown your sausage links In your instant pot (or in a pot on the stovetop), and set aside for later.
Next, without wiping out the pot, add your onions, garlic and sauté until softened. Then mix in the tomato paste and continue to sauté for an additional minute. I sometimes add pepper flakes at this point, but they are optional.
Add in your herbs and seasonings and cook an additional minute to bloom the spices. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits (fond) from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon. Let the wine reduce until very little is left.
Add your diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.
Next, add the beans and then stir in your chicken broth and dried herbs.
Finally, add the sausages along with any accumulated juices. Set your Instant Pot to high for 8 hours.
Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Now, all that's left is to garnish and serve! I love to sprinkle this dish with fresh chopped parsley and shaved Parmesan cheese, then serve with a chunk of crusty bread.
Can I use the pressure cooker function to make Sausage and Beans?
Absolutely. I would suggest using the highest pressure cooker setting for 45 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release.
However, I don't recommend pressure-cooking the sausages. Instead, add them to the bean mixture following the pressure cook and simmer (use the saute function on low) for 20 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through.
Variations of Sausage and Beans
If you prefer more snap to your sausages, you could either cook them thoroughly and then add to the bean mixture right before serving or use the sauté function on the instant pot to simmer them for 20 minutes or until completely cooked.
You could substitute meatballs for the sausages (I'd suggest adding them an hour before the beans are done).
Or try using your favorite type of bean instead of navy beans. You could even use canned beans, in which case it would make more sense to make this dish on the stovetop and simply simmer until the sausages are cooked through.
What side dishes pair well with sausage and beans?
I would suggest a simple green vegetable or salad. A few good options are:
- Easy Microwave Brussels Sprouts
- Meal-Prep House Salad & Homemade Thousand Island Dressing
- Easy Microwave Broccoli – Served 3 Ways
- Arugula-Shaved-Fennel Salad
- Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze
That's it! I hope your family loves this comforting meal.
Stay safe. Stay well.
- 1 spicy or mild Italian sausage links, (you can use pork, chicken, or turkey)
- 1 medium Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 15- oz. can tomato sauce
- ¾ cup diced tomatoes, drained (you can use canned or fresh)
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce (optional)
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig sage, (3 leaves)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ cups dry navy beans
- ½ cup white wine
- 3 cups chicken broth
- ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 2 tsp. Italian herb mix, (optional)
- ½ teaspoon pepper flakes (optional)
- Chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
- Heat olive oil in the insert of the Instant Pot, using the highest sauteé setting. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the sausages and brown well on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove sausages to a plate.
- Add the onion and garlic; sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and pepper flakes (if using); sauté—stirring slowly but steadily— until the paste darkens slightly in color, about 1 minute. Add the rosemary, sage, and bay leaf to the pot.
- Add in the fish sauce; stir until the reduced to almost nothing. Add the wine and reduce by half, while scraping up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce; stir to combine.
- Rinse and pick through the beans, removing any stones. Add to the tomato mixture; stir to combine. Add the chicken broth, Italian herb mix (if using), and several grinds of black pepper; stir. Add the sausages and any accumulated juices (the sausages will be mostly—if not completely—submerged in the liquid). Set the Instant Pot on high for 8 hours.
- Check the liquid level of the beans at 7 hours: if more liquid is needed, stir in up to a cup of water. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed (I usually add ½ teaspoon of salt at this point). Remove the herb sprigs.
- Serve with shavings of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of Italian parsley with crusty bread on the side.
- You can also use the pressure-cooker function of the Instant Pot. To do this, cover and refrigerate the sausages after browning. Cook the bean mixture at the highest setting for 45 minutes, then allow to naturally release for 10 minutes. Manually release the remaining pressure. Add the sausages, press "cancel" on the Instant Pot, then press "sauté." Sauté on low for 20 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked through.
- To use a slow-cooker rather than an Instant Pot, complete steps 1–4 on the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed pot. Transfer the mixture to the crock of your slow-cooker, then add the beans and remaining ingredients and stir. Lid the slow-cooker and set on low. Cook for 8 hours, checking the liquid level at hour 7.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 sausage, ¾ cup bean mixture
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 404Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 1930mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 11gSugar: 10gProtein: 22g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!