October 12, 2014

Pasta Arrabiata

One of my favorite restaurants in Madison has all these great pasta dishes, including one called Pasta Arrabiata. It's basically your choice of pasta in a spicy tomato sauce loaded with fresh herbs, but I took it a step further by adding lots of savory, spicy sausage. The tomato sauce isn't just my basic tomato sauce, either. I use onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, seasoning, and diced fresh tomatoes. I think the fresh tomatoes make all the difference because they retain their texture and provide bursts of sweet, tart tomato flavor.

However, you don't just combine all the ingredients and let them simmer for a while. What makes this sauce taste so good is the layering of flavors. I start by cooking off the sausage; I take hot Italian sausage (you can use mild for a less spicy sauce) and brown it in a little oil, leaving the casing on so it stays in links. Once they are brown on all sides, I take them out, let them cool, and cut them into coins. You could remove the sausage from the casing and brown it that way, but it's harder to skim it out of the fat, and I just think the coins make a better presentation.

Whichever method you use to brown the sausage, you still want to make sure there's enough fat left in the pan to brown the onions and garlic in. It's a delicious alternative to oil, and it ensures all the sausage flavor makes its way into the dish. Once the onions are tender, I add the crushed tomatoes and herbs. I also throw in a bit of sugar and lemon juice for balance. After that all cooks together for a few minutes, I stir in the sausage and fresh tomatoes and cook it for 20-30 minutes, which is just enough time for the flavors to meld without overcooking the sausage or fresh tomatoes.

That's also a good point to start cooking the pasta. I like to use a ribbed penne because it sticks to the liquidy parts of the sauce but catches the chunkier parts. Really, any pasta is fine as long as you cook it properly. As always, though, don't throw away your pasta water because it's a great thickening agent for your sauce. The starches that cook out of the pasta and into the water help tighten your sauce and improve the consistency. I tend to scoop the pasta out of the water and transfer it directly into the big pot of sauce and then stir in a ladle or two of starchy water if necessary. It's a hearty, spicy dish perfect for the chilly Fall weather, and the best part is that it's ready in less than an hour!

1 lb Spicy Italian Sausage
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 28 oz Can + 1 10.5 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
2 T Olive Oil
2 T Lemon Juice
3 T Sugar
2 tsp Basil
2 tsp Oregano
2 tsp Thyme
1 T Garlic Powder
1 T Onion Powder
3 Plum Tomatoes, Diced
1 lb Pasta

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the sausage and brown on all sides. Remove and slice when cool.

Cook the onions in the sausage fat for 3 minutes or until tender and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes and sausage. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, then toss with the sauce.

Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Food Fanatic

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