When the Nans stay over they require frequent feeding. They arrive after school … starving. I feed them, they do homework, we go for a walk and as the sun sets – the cry goes up again …. “we’re staaaaarving”. It’s terrifying: they are literally mouths on legs.
Over the past few years I have developed a roster of recipes that I rotate across a couple of months. It’s called “The List”. We have an agreement: if I don’t challenge their tastebuds too much, they will at least try what I prepare. The first time I made Sausage Pasta, I wasn’t expecting them for dinner. Their father was in town and they usually head off on some adventure with him, but this Friday they showed up as I was about to stick the sausages on the braai (SAfrican for barbecue), so I had to improvise. I thought the fennel in the sausages would put them off, but they took to it like expert Italians. Sniffing the air as the salsiccia rendered down and scarfing the huge pan of penne in seconds. Even Riley who has the delicate tastebuds of a food critic (hah!) gave it a grubby thumbs up: “You can add this to our list, Suzie.” Praise indeed.
A good sausage is key – splurge on this, the rest of the ingredients are inexpensive. And use fresh ripe tomatoes – they make all the difference. From there you can get creative: mix in some rocket, add a little heat with flakes of red pepper, even a smidgen of cream wouldn’t go amiss. I prefer pecorino as a cheese, parmesan has its place … but the salty sheep’s cheese is a great add to this dish. As to the pasta shape – penne are ideal, you want the sauce to lodge in the nooks and crannies. But this recipe is very understanding of ‘needs must when the devil drives’, or as the family call it – ‘using up leftovers’ – and the fusilli I had in the cupboard worked just as well. The best part: from start to finite, the prep took 20 minutes tops.
8oz/250g ounces uncooked penne, fusilli or any pasta shape you fancy
8 ounces/250g Italian sausage
2 glugs of olive oil
1 cup/225oz chopped onion
2 big cloves finely chopped garlic
1 1/4 pounds/600g fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped (take the skins off if you use big toms/leave them on if you use babies)
6 tablespoons/100g grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
big handful torn fresh basil leaves or rocket
1. Cook pasta in salted water (as salty as tears) until al dente. (The salt is key in adding another layer of flavour to your pasta, don’t leave it out. Italians never cook their pasta in water with olive oil in it. I have no idea where that weird practice came from – but salt is what you need here. By the way … the Italian word for pasta that lacks salt “sciocca” means ‘silly’. Says it all really.)
2. Remove casings from sausage. Heat a large nonstick frying over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.
3. Add sausage and onion to pan; cook until the pink is gone from the sausage … and the onions have softened. About 8 mins … make sure to crumble sausage, you want it in small pieces.
4. Add garlic now and cook for two minutes.
5. Stir in tomatoes; allow them to sweat out their juice – should take 6/7 minutes.
6. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, two tablespoons of the cheese, salt, and pepper. Don’t cook the cheese, it will change everything – stir it in only when the pan is off the heat.
7. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and basil.
This pasta welcomes any wine. We saluted its simplicity with a lovely merlot.
(PS – these images are pre-photo workshop and taken the night the kids were round – viva iPad.)