This dish is a rendition of the first meal I learned to cook growing up. This sausage pasta dish is my version of comfort food.
Growing up in an Italian household meant we were eating pasta with tomato sauce on Sundays. There had to be some sort of meat in the sauce, whether it was sausage, meatballs, brasciole or some other version of pork. There was also the occasional Chicken Cacciatore, but sausage seemed to be the most common in my house. And I always looked forward to it.
My sauce is very much influenced by the way my grandmother (my Nona) prepared her sauce, but with a few alterations in the cooking method and proportions of ingredients.
The major changes I made to her recipe were really upping the red wine for a more rich, deeply flavored sauce and throwing in a LOT of fresh basil right on the stem, rather than just several leaves of basil. I got both of these tips from a chef friend of mine, so I can’t take 100% credit.
If you know me at all, you know I have to serve this with a garnish of fresh basil and a generous grating of parmigiano reggiano. I put lots more cheese on my pasta than shown in these photos. Just couldn’t help it.
- 6 Italian pork sausages
- 3T extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ C tomato paste
- 2C dry red wine*
- 2-28oz cans, whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 1 bunch of basil on the stem (I used 2 stems worth)
- 1-2 tsp sugar, or to taste (optional)
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 1 lb Rigatoni pasta
- Small basil leaves or larger leaves, chiffonade, for serving
- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving
- Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausages to the pan. Brown on all sides, about 5-8 minutes total. Remove sausages and set aside. Add remaining oil to the pan. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 3-5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Stir in wine, increase heat to medium-high, and reduce to about 1/3 cup. Reduce heat to medium, add in tomatoes, and roughly crush with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Season with salt and pepper. Return sausages to pan and add in basil.
- Bring sauce to a rapid simmer, reduce heat to medium-low to low heat and partially cover with lid. Simmer until, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 hours or until sausages are very tender and sauce is deeply flavorful. Add water, as needed, if sauce becomes too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Add sugar at this point, if desired. Discard basil stems and keep warm.
- For pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. The water should taste like salt water. Add rigatoni and cook until al dente. Drain. Add pasta back to pot with heat off. Ladle in just enough sauce to coat and stir to combine. Transfer to large bowl. Garnish with basil and serve with cheese and additional sauce, if desired. Any remaining sauce can be frozen. Enjoy.
- From experience, I suggest you make sure you buy a wine that you find pleasant to drink, as the flavors will concentrate and really affect the flavor of the sauce. I’m not implying you need to spend upwards of $25-$30; however, I bought a not so palatable bottle for $7 once and regretted it. Extra sugar helped balance the bitter, tannin flavors, but I’ve had much better results using a higher quality bottle of wine in the past.