I use Italian sausages with pasta quite often, but I don't do anything particularly fancy or complicated with them. Usually I just break them up while frying them and then toss them in tomato sauce, often with artichoke hearts. I then saw Jamie Oliver's recipe for "Pregnant Jools's Pasta" in his cookbook Meals in Minutes, which is a different approach to sausage pasta than my usual. He puts the sausages through the food processor before frying it up, which gives the sausage a more silky texture, as opposed to the more rustic texture of my sausage pastas. He also makes the sauce with carrot, celery (which unfortunately I didn't have on hand) and diced tomatoes, which makes it taste fresh.
His cookbook is meant to allow someone to make an entire meal (usually an entrée, salad and a dessert) in 30 minutes. I am nowhere close to that. I find that even making the entrée took longer than 30 minutes (I think it took closer to 45 from start to finish), though I did find myself with quite a bit of stirring-and-watching time while making this, which I suppose I could have used to make the dessert and/or salad that he pairs with this meal.
I adapted Jamie Oliver's recipe and really liked how it turned out. While I love the heartiness of my usual sausage pasta, this version was lighter and fresher, which is not how I would have thought I'd describe a pasta dish made with Italian sausage. It would be a great meal to make in the summertime, when you don't feel like something too heavy but still have a craving for pasta and sausage. My husband told me multiple times how much he liked it, so I guess that means it's a winner!
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1 large carrot
- 1 small yellow onion
- 4 large spicy Italian sausages
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 225 g of penne
- 1-796 mL can of diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- Parmesan cheese to taste, grated
Grate the carrot and the onion in a food processor. (Like I said, I didn't have any celery, but if I did, I probably would have thrown a stalk into the food processor too. It tasted fine without it, but a little celery never hurts a pasta sauce.) Add the Italian sausages and oregano and process the contents until it is smooth, like a thick sausage paste (it's much more appetizing than it sounds, I promise).
Boil the penne in a large pot of well-salted water.
In a large pan, add the olive oil. When the pan and oil are hot, add the sausage mixture. Allow the sausage to brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. If your pan is not big enough to hold all of the sausage, brown it in batches to keep it from overcrowding the pan and boiling rather than browning. The sweetness of the carrots mutes the spiciness of the Italian sausages, so if you like more heat in your dishes, consider adding some red pepper flakes while you cook the sausage.
When the sausage is nicely browned, drain any excess fat if necessary. If you cooked the sausage in batches, return all of the sausage to the pan. Add the diced tomatoes and their juice and toss in a bay leaf. Simmer on low, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
When the penne is cooked, reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
If needed, add some of the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce. Mix the sauce into the pasta. Depending on how saucy you like your pasta, you may have some leftover sauce. Grate Parmesan cheese on top and serve immediately.
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