Fusilli. Corkscrews of pasta perfect for soaking up delicious sauce of Italian Sausage, Ricotta Cheese and Fresh Tomatoes.
Little nooks and crannies of serious flavor.
I might have mentioned before that I have something of a cookbook addiction.
It’s only really a problem when you have to unload the bookshelves and move all the furniture to clean the carpets.
So, if I’m going to have this addiction — and if my amazon wish list is any indication, I don’t see a cure anytime soon — we might as well make use of it and feature some recipes from my cookbook collection.
This recipe comes from a great cookbook by Giuliano Hazan called Thirty Minute Pasta.
Giuliano is the son of Marcella Hazan, the Queen Mother of Italian cooking and cookbooks. Marcella Hazan is responsible for Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Sage, the first recipe featured here on Idiot’s Kitchen. Some people call her the “Julia Child of Italian Cooking”. Rumor has it that she regularly attends the Sarasota Opera but I’ve never seen her from my fabulous vantage point in the orchestra pit. When that day comes, believe me, you will hear about it.
On to the recipe.
What I love about this recipe is that it has a smooth creamy sauce without using heavy cream. Ricotta cheese makes a light, tangy, yet creamy addition to the sauce.
I’ve made a few modifications from the original recipe which I’ll try to note as I go along. I should also mention that the original recipe calls for making your own Italian Sausage. I’ve tried the recipe with both homemade and store bought sausage. We’ll use the store bought version here but I’ll cover the homemade directions at the end of the post for those of you feeling slightly adventurous — it’s not at all difficult, just requires 24 hours advance planning.
Here’s what you need:
Italian Sausage*, Fusilli or Rotini Pasta, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, Fresh Basil, Ricotta Cheese, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese, and Butter (not pictured).
*The original recipe calls for 1/2 pound of Italian Sausage but I found that the pasta to sausage ratio was a little lacking for my sausage loving taste so I bumped it up to 1 pound.
Peel and chop 1 medium yellow onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.
For recipes with tomatoes that cook in a sauce, I prefer to peel the tomatoes so that the skin doesn’t separate and float around in the sauce. To peel the tomatoes, cut an X in the bottom end of each tomato.
Pour boiling water over the tomatoes (in the sink, obviously) to scald the tomato skins. You can also dunk the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes if you’d prefer not to pour boiling water.
Let the scalded tomatoes rest for at least 5 minutes for the skin to being shrinking away from the flesh of the tomato.
Then using your little X as a starting point, peel the skin away from the tomato and discard.
Since I also don’t want a bunch of tomato seeds floating around in my sauce, I like to seed the tomatoes by cutting off the stem end and giving each tomato a gentle squeeze.
I would advise you to NOT wear your favorite white shirt while squeezing tomatoes.
Give the peeled and seeded tomatoes a rough chop into chunks.
Grab a large pot and melt 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Saute the onions for about 5 minutes until they are softened but not browned.
After the onions have a few minutes head start, add the chopped garlic. If you add the garlic too soon, it will burn and taste bitter.
P.S. The original recipe doesn’t call for garlic but I think that’s just wrong.
After the garlic has a minute or two to cook, add 1 pound of Italian Sausage to brown. Break the sausage up into small pieces as it cooks.
While the sausage browns and cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Add a generous handful of salt and drop in the pasta.
Cook the pasta for about 8 minutes until al dente – tender but still slightly firm in the center.
When the sausage has browned, add the chopped tomatoes to the pot.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Use the juices from the tomatoes to help you scrape up any tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes until about half of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated.
Grab a bunch of fresh, fragrant basil leaves. The recipe calls for 12 basil leaves, but I used at least 20.
Stack the basil leaves in a little pile and then roll them up to form a basil cigar.
Slice across the basil cigar with a sharp knife to create thin, little strips of basil. The fancy cooking term for this is “chiffonade”.
Add 1/2 cup (or more if you want it extra creamy) of Ricotta cheese to the sauce.
Add the basil and stir everything together to combine.
Try your best not to eat this sauce with a spoon directly out of the pot while you wait on the pasta.
Remove the sauce from the heat and add 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese.
When the pasta is al dente, take a measuring cup and reserve a little bit of the starchy pasta water. Sometimes I need this to thin out the sauce and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the juiciness of the tomatoes.
Drain the pasta and add it directly to the pot of sauce.
Stir to combine the pasta with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, this is where you can add a little of the reserved pasta water.
Serve with a little extra cheese and basil on top. Dig in!
Obviously with a pound of sausage and a pound of pasta, this makes a HUGE pot. However, like most pasta dishes, it tastes even better as a leftover.
Here’s the recipe:
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try your hand at making your own sausage, here is Giuliano Hazan’s method:
Mix 1 pound of ground pork, 1-2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a bowl.
Add 2 Tablespoon of dry white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc would both work nicely).
Get right in there with your clean hands and mix it all together.
Form the meat into a blob and cover it with plastic wrap. I would also suggest that unless you want your refrigerator to smell like garlic the next day, you put the wrapped sausage in a zipper bag.
Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors combine. Use in the recipe above or freeze for a later date.
This sausage has a much milder flavor than most store bought Italian sausage. I’ve been told that this closer to the authentic flavor of real Italian sausage from Italy.
If you have the time, give it a try. Either way, this pasta is creamy and delicious.