1 lb dried cannellini beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 fresh sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 black peppercorns
Beans with sausage
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3-4 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup tomato pur?e
Salt (about 2 teaspoons) and freshly ground black pepper
Sort through the beans, removing any stones. Rinse the beans under cold running water. Place beans in a large pot and cover by at least a couple of inches with cold water. Let soak for at least 4 hours.
Drain the beans. Add 3 quarts of water back to the beans in the pot. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the sage leaves, 2 cloves crushed garlic, and the peppercorns. Cover, bring to a simmer on medium heat, and simmer beans for one hour. Season to taste with salt. Lower the heat so that the beans are barely simmering. Cook for an additional 1-2 hours, or until beans are just tender. Note that the fresher the beans the shorter the cooking time, the older the beans the longer. Remove from heat and let cool in cooking liquid. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the rest from the beans.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Remove sausages from their casings (if the sausage has come in casings), and fry on the skillet until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Do not stir that much and do not crowd the pan, or the sausage won’t brown well. Add the reserved bean cooking liquid, 4 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, chopped tomatoes, and red pepper flakes, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add the reserved beans and tomato pur?e. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer a few minutes longer, stirring gently, until sausage is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Be careful not to break up the beans.