I use to work near a pub where they did a comfort dish of penne in an Italian sausage tomato sauce. It was rich and very moreish – the sausage sort of melts into the sauce and enriches it in a delicious way.
So a variant of the dish I enjoyed has become a bit of a supper staple for Rocket and I – although varied to an extent dependent on what we have. We do a version adapted for use with British bangers with the addition of some fennel seeds. In this instance we have used ‘Porky Whites’ sausages from Surrey – so good and local – we like this brand as a good quality all purpose banger.
When in Provence a while ago, we picked up a pack of dried fennel stalks that give up their anaseedy delights in a very subtle way for stews and sauces, and they work perfectly here. Back to the tale….
Having just returned from our holiday but returning to work tomorrow, we have a comforting backlog of recorded telly to snuggle down to… one of the things about going away mid august is that you go to France in high summer and baking heat then return to London in what definitely feels like autumn!
This will be TV Sausage Rigatoni, in all it’s savoury loveliness, consumed in bowls in front of “The Great British Bake Off” “Orange is the new black” and I’m very excited to say the new Rick Stein series ‘From Venice to Instanbul’!
4 Pork sausages – skinned
1 medium onion – chopped
1 pinch of chill flakes for a hint of warmth – optional
2 cloves of garlic – crushed
A glass of red wine if you have it spare but if not a good splash of water.
10 fennel seeds (or dried fennel twigs)
A pinch of dried oregano or Italian herbs/ mixed herbs
A tin of Italian tomatoes – chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2 portions of Penne or Rigatoni
A little grated parmesan
- Get going by pulling the sausage meat into small pieces and dropping them into a saucepan to brown. Depending on your sausage you might want to add a few dropped of olive oil. Fry the sausage pieces until they are caramelized and then remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and then, over a medium heat, soften the onions. When the onions are translucent add the garlic, herbs, chilli flakes and fennel seeds and continue to cook for a minute or two.
- Add the wine and allow it to bubble away until it has almost disappeared before adding the tomatoes and returning the sausage to the pan.
- Sprinkle in a little salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and allow to cook away – we like to cover the sauce with a round of greasproof paper or you cold put a lid on but leave a small gap to allow the steam out and for the sauce to reduce. The sausage will begin to break up and melt in to the sauce with some pieces staying more ‘whole’ to give some texture.
- Once the sauce is bubbling, turn the heat down to very low and allow to cook for about 35 to 40 minutes – check it’s not sticking from time to time. The sauce is ready when it is thick enough to cling to pasta and where much of the sausage has melded with the tomato base.
- Cook your pasta in plenty of salted boiling water– I would say ‘undercook’ it will be nicer if it has plenty of bite, once drained and mixed with a knob of butter add the pasta to the sauce and sprinkle over some parmesan – check the seasoning, adjust and then consume.
You could serve this with a simple rocket and parmesan salad or with some lovely focaccia or garlic bread.
While the dish is cooking it fills the kitchen with it’s steamy aroma … and I find that… standing around in the kitchen, with a glass of something crisp and Italian and peering out at the grey drizzle it is incredibly comforting.