Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Many of my happier food-related memories from childhood involve spaghetti in some kind of red sauce. (Home? The Wassermans' house? IHOP?) I know I'm not alone. As a child, I can't say that I was able to discern a home-made sauce from a jar sauce. But now that I make it myself, I can. I'm not saying jar sauce is no good, and I do still like to keep some on hand for home-made pizza or a pasta night of the lazy persuasion. But home-made spaghetti sauce has a little heart that jar sauce doesn't have. I don't have a favorite, go-to spaghetti sauce recipe just yet. But for another variation, I turned tonight, as I so often do, to my friend Rachael.
You can always count on Rachael Ray for a hearty Italian meal that is easy for a weeknight. It's kind of her specialty. This one comes from her magazine, and is definitely worth trying. It's simple, it's tasty, and it's "different" enough that you won't feel like it's just plain old spaghetti with sauce from a jar. The sauce is easy and fairly quick, but with fresh herbs that add a little "wow" factor, not to mention the star of the show: Italian sausage.
Sweet Italian sausage is one of those mysterious ingredients that I didn't even know existed until recently. It's that super fragrant and flavorful sausage that occasionally appears on pizza or in other Italian dishes. And I love it. I especially love that you can find it in your regular supermarket, and that they often have chicken and turkey varieties so you can feel a little better about eating it (health-wise, I mean). It's becoming more of a regular in my kitchen, and it is particularly great in a sauce like this one, filled with fresh herbs, a hint of spiciness, and rich tomatoes.
This is comfort food, Italian style, without anything of the guilt-inducing variety.
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 pound uncooked sweet chicken Italian sausages, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 28-ounce can unsalted whole peeled tomatoes, drained, halved, and 1/4 cup of juice reserved
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of saffron threads
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1. Heat EVOO in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Push to one side of the skillet and increase heat to high. Add tomatoes, stirring to break them up a bit, and cook until the oil in the pan turns red and tomatoes are starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir sausage and tomatoes together.
2. Add garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and saffron, and stir. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add parsley, basil, and salt to taste. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil while the mixture above is cooking. Salt it. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
4. Add cooked spaghetti to the skillet, along with the cooking liquid and reserved tomato juice. (Note: if the sauce is still very liquidy at this point, then don't add the tomato juice). Toss together and cook for about 3 minutes. Top with cheese and serve.