One of the great cons to restaurant cookbooks is that they often assume that your kitchen is stocked with staff, that your day is dedicated to cooking, and that you have an army to feed. This translates poorly to my kitchen. Happily, my cookbook from Sicily’s Gangivecchio acknowledges the likelihood of that reality among its readers. In this recipe for pasta with fresh sausage sauce, for example, the authors give three different ingredient options, according to one’s time and ingredient availability:
- Estratto (a concentrate made of “tomatoes seasoned only with salt and the sun […] You will need about five hot days of full sun and little humidity.” It’s so intense that while they include the recipe, the authors haven’t made it themselves in years – and while you can buy it in Sicily, apparently North American grocery stores are not generally so stocked.)
- Concentrated tomato sauce (there’s a feasible recipe, but it makes a hefty quart. This recipe needs a cup.)
- Tomato paste
Hurrah! Tomato paste it is.
Reasons to love this pasta: So few ingredients! So hearty! So much flavour! So low maintenance! It’s great post-spring-skiing food, and I’ll bet it serves equally well for can’t-believe-it-snowed-10cm-last-night food (sorry to hear about that, Ottawa). Also, the twelve-year-old in me thinks this recipe name is fabulous.
Notes: While the recipe calls for Italian sweet sausage, I used Italian spicy – no regrets. Play around with it as suits you best.
Pasta with Fresh Sausage Sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 lb fresh Italian sausage, cut into 1-inch rounds
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
1 lb pasta (chunky like penne, or ribboned like lasagne ricce or fettuccine)
freshly grated caciocavallo or pecorino cheese (optional)
1. In a large saucepan, stir the olive oil and tomato paste over medium heat until combined. A bit at a time, slowly pour in 1/2 a cup of water, stirring after each addition until combined.
2. Add the sausage, celery, onion and sugar to the sauce. Top the sauce up with water until all the ingredients are covered. Add salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 1 hour.
3. When the sauce is almost good to go, cook your pasta in boiling salted water. When just tender, drain the pasta and transfer it to warm bowls. Top with pasta, toss, and serve with grated cheese if desired.