When I checked back in the list of recipes on the blog, I was surprised to find that I hadn’t given this recipe before. There are similar ones but not quite made in this way – a dish that I cook often and has become a family favourite. Although it can be made with any decent sausage, there’s no doubt that the wonderful Italian sausages from Sienna that I buy in my brilliant local Italian deli, Corto Italian Deli, make this simple dish into something very special. With over 94% pork meat in them, they are very meaty sausages indeed, and thus don’t contain all the starchy emulsifiers and bulking ingredients that you find in the average supermarket sausage. They’re expensive – £6.10 for this pack of 4 – but you can stretch them to feed maybe 3 with this recipe and they are so flavourful, it really is a case that a little goes a long way to giving the meal a fantastic taste. And actually, that makes it more Italian. Italians tend to mix quite a small amount of meat sauce with their pasta – traditionally this was a way to make meat go further, but it’s also healthier. One of the many ways we go wrong with ‘spag bol’ – the spaghetti Bolognese that doesn’t exist in Bologna and will cause a Bolognese person to have a near breakdown if you ask for it – is that we’ve traditionally topped a bowl of spaghetti with a huge mound of meaty sauce. An Italian would put in far less sauce and never dump it on the top! It’s added to the cooked pasta and carefully turned and mixed in over a low heat, then spooned on to a serving plate.
Penne with Italian Sausage, Tomato & Red Pepper Sauce
- 1 pack of Italian sausages (or others with a high meat content)
- olive oil
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 Romano red pepper, deseeded and sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
- 50g red wine (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- penne pasta (75-100g per serving, depending on how hungry you are!)
- Parmesan for garnish
Open the pack of sausages and carefully cut a slit down one side of each with a sharp knife. Slip off the skin covering and discard. Cut each sausage into 4 and roll into a round shape. Put a little olive oil in the bottom of a shallow pan and when hot, tip in the sausage pieces. Fry, turning frequently, over a medium heat until starting to brown (these meaty sausages don’t go as obviously brown as a ‘normal’ sausage, but you’ll see them start to colour). Remove from the pan and keep on a plate. Wipe the pan dry with kitchen towel (so the finished sauce isn’t too oily). Add a little more olive oil (about a tablespoon) and add the shallot, red pepper and garlic. I tend to use shallots more and more, partly because I’m often cooking for just myself and making a small amount, but I like their mild, sweet flavour better than onion for this kind of sauce, but use a small onion if you prefer.
When the shallot, pepper and garlic start to soften – but not colour – add the tin of tomatoes. Stir round, crush down the tomatoes a bit. Add the wine and seasoning and mix. Bring to a simmer, put on a lid, then turn the heat to low and allow to cook gently for 10 minutes. Now blend the sauce with a hand blender. I do this more and more to get a lovely creamy-textured sauce that I think tastes better and wraps itself round pasta shapes better too.
Tip in the browned sausage. Mix together. Bring back to a simmer. Check seasoning. Cover with a lid and cook gently for another 15 minutes. The tomato sauce will take on the flavour of the sausage brilliantly.
You can easily make the sauce in advance and then reheat it when you want to eat.
Cook the pasta as directed on the packet. Drain. Return to the pan and spoon in some sauce. (This is assuming you’re making one portion but for 2 or 3 portions, just tip in all the sauce.) Stir over a gentle heat to mix everything together well. Then spoon into a serving dish.
I served this with a green salad on the side. Grate over a little Parmesan if you like. The leftover sauce can be frozen for another day.
It’s a really delicious sauce. I’ve made it with more ordinary sausages and it’s still good but I really do urge you to buy good Italian sausages if you can – it makes a big difference! The flavour is strong, a little salty, and the sweet tomato and red pepper sauce is a perfect marriage of flavours. It’s also a wonderful warm and comforting supper on what has been a damp and chilly December day!