What is cassoulet?
Cassoulet is a richly flavored bean stew with origins in southern France… and what a satisfying and delicious pot of beans it is! Here I’ve created a vegetable cassoulet that’s as creamy as can be, and brimming with the aromas of fresh herbs and vegetables.
But to me, what makes cassoulet so special is the petite, pale-green flageolet beans. Their sweet flavor and soft texture are simply addictive. Here the tender beans are slow-simmered with a mirepoix of vegetables and served with crunchy sourdough croutons – the perfect contrast to the creamy dish.
A vegetarian cassoulet recipe that even your carnivore friends will love… and it’s quicker to make too!
Since this cassoulet is made without the large selection of meats that usually goes into the traditional dish, it doesn’t need to be cooked both on the stove and then in the oven. This vegetable cassoulet is simmered on the stove only, making it a much less time-consuming endeavor.
So here’s to a hearty vegetable cassoulet… a bowl full of goodness!
Food & wine pairing: Languedoc-Roussillon, red blend with vegetable cassoulet
Serve a red wine from Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France with this flavorful cassoulet. Especially well-suited are reds from Côteaux du Languedoc AC, Corbières AC or Côtes du Roussillon AC, which are blends of mostly Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. These full-bodied wines are neither too fruity nor too tannic – they pair wonderfully with the heft of the cassoulet and the creaminess of the beans, without overpowering the delicate flavors of the vegetables.
Vegetable cassoulet with olive oil croutons
active time: 1 hr 15 min
For the beans
- 2 1/2 cups dried flageolet beans – soaked in spring water for at least 12 hours
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves – skinned and left whole
- 1 bouquet garni – 2 rosemary sprigs, 2 sage sprigs, 12 thyme sprigs, 6 parsley sprigs and 2 bay leaves tied tightly with kitchen string
For the croutons
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 slices sourdough country bread – cut in 1/2″ cubes (5 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the cassoulet
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large Vidalia or sweet onion – skinned and cut in 1/4″ pieces
- 1 leek – green leaves trimmed 3″ from top, halved lengthwise, thoroughly rinsed and cut in 1/4″ slices (2 cups)
- 1 celery rib – cut in 1/4″ pieces (3/4 cup)
- 2 large carrots – peeled and cut in 1/4″ pieces (1 1/4 cups)
- 3 medium parsnips – peeled and cut in 1/4″ pieces (1 1/2 cups)
- 4 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
- 1 – 15 oz (425 g) can whole peeled plum tomatoes – coarsely puréed (use a food processor)
- 4 to 5 cups reserved cooking liquid from the beans (see Viviane’s tips)
- 2 1/2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (lots of it!)
- extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian or curly-leaf parsley as garnish
- Step 1: Drain the soaked beans. Place in a large pot and add fresh spring water to cover the beans by 2″. (Read here about the importance of water when cooking beans.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, skim the foam and add the oil, garlic and bouquet garni. Stir well, reduce heat to medium/medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender. (Depending on the freshness of the beans, this will take between 20 and 40 minutes.) Discard the bouquet garni and garlic and drain the beans, reserving all the cooking liquid. You should have about 8 cups of cooked beans.
- Cook’s note: The beans can be used immediately or refrigerated in their cooking liquid for up to 3 days.
- Step 2: To make the croutons – Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil and bread cubes. Toss until well coated with the oil. Then reduce heat to medium/medium-high and sauté the bread cubes until golden-brown and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes, tossing frequently. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, toss well and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
- Cook’s note: The croutons can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Step 3: Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions and leeks and sauté for about 4 minutes until softened and translucent, stirring from time to time. Add the celery, carrots and parsnips and sauté for another 6 to 7 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute only, stirring continuously so the garlic doesn’t brown. Add the puréed tomato, the cooked beans, 4 cups of the reserved cooking liquid from the beans, and the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium/medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 35 to 40 minutes until the juices have thickened. Stir the beans a couple of times throughout the cooking to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Adjust the seasoning and add a bit of reserved cooking liquid if needed. Let the cassoulet stand for 10 minutes before serving. Spoon the cassoulet into bowls. Sprinkle with a few croutons, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with the balance of the croutons on the side.
- Cook’s note: The cassoulet can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (Completely thaw at room temperature before reheating.) Add a bit of liquid to the beans before reheating, as they will absorb most of the liquid while they sit.
- This cassoulet is simple to make, but prepping the ingredients does take some time. So I suggest you cook the beans and make the croutons a day ahead. This way, making the cassoulet will be less time-consuming… and you can focus all your attention on cutting the mirepoix!
- If you use a different kind of bean, you’ll need to adjust the amount of reserved cooking liquid you use to make the cassoulet. Larger beans will call for less water than the 4 to 5 cups suggested in the recipe.