I was planning to write about sausages and beans, but then I remembered that I haven’t properly told you about Verona. About the way the crisp morning air nips at my fingers as I cycle to my Italian class (late, of course), or how the narrow streets ripple with life, and music, and spritz-drinking revellers on a Saturday evening.
Verona is perhaps the first foreign city I’ve really lived in. I lived the others – Venice, Madrid, Rome – as a friendless and aimless au pair, held back by having far too much time to do very little. This time’s it’s different. I have a heavy workload (pitches are coming out of my ears), my own poky apartment, Italian classes to attend, and at least one friend. I’m even going to the cobbler this afternoon to get my shoes reheeled, if that doesn’t mean I’m actually living here I don’t know what does.
I’ve decided that Verona is a wonderful city to live in. Not too big, not too small, with the beauty of Rome and the sophistication of Florence. Although it’s now that I must admit, dear reader, that I haven’t stepped foot in a museum, gallery or tourist attraction since I’ve been here (save for that statue of Juliet near her balcony, along with the swarm of tourists waiting in line to cup her tired breast for luck).
Instead I’ve been drinking coffee in cafes. Lots and lots of cafes. The best moment in my week comes on the journey back from my Italian class. The Adige is on my left, with the towers and duomos of Verona rising proudly from her deep banks. I cross the river via Ponte Pietra, find my favourite cafe of the moment, and order a cappuccino. I then sit for a few moments to do my Italian homework from a textbook aimed at children.
But these studious moments are only part of a wider coffee addiction. An addiction, I like to think, not to caffeine, but to the coffee ritual. To standing knowingly at a bar, to swirling the pool of sugar at the bottom of the cup, to tipping it back in one sweet shot, and of course, to exchanging only one shiny euro for the pleasure. Even if on my return to London I find I’m unable to function without six strong espressos a day, I refuse to have any regrets.
Now to the sausages and beans. I cooked this last Saturday, when I needed comfort from wherever I could find it. It’s simple and delicious, and made all the better by using fennel spiked Italian sausages, good quality passata and meltingly soft cannellini beans.
Italian sausage and bean stew
8 Italian sausages (or the meatiest sausages you can find)
500g cooked cannellini beans
1 large jar of good quality passata (or a jar of pasta sauce)
2 cloves of garlic
2 sage leaves
glug of olive oil
Heat a little olive oil in a pan with a lid, and gently fry the two whole cloves of garlic. After a couple of minutes add the sausages and fry evenly. Once they brown on all sides add the passata and sage leaves. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes. Add the cooked cannellini beans and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.
Yield: 4 servings