If you’re looking for ways to use up the last of the season’s tomatoes (I got three in my box this week… that’s two more than last week… maybe late ripers?), this is a dinner we’ve eaten all summer, a few times a month. It’s easy, quick, and a little different every time you make it. The recipe below is just a guide, as I’m sure I varied the proportions each go-around, depending on what I had on a Sunday night.
Inspired by a dish I was served at my friend Megan’s house last June, it relies on ripe tomatoes (for once, the quality can be a little lacking and it won’t hurt much), fresh Italian sausage, and will benefit lots from fresh herbs and good-quality parmesan cheese. My current favorite source for sausage is Whole Foods; I buy a ton of it when it’s on sale ($3/pound) and freeze it in half-pound portions. It’s my favorite because it’s full of black pepper, but not too heavy on the fennel (the sausage I used to buy from Earth Fare was fennel-packed, a little out-of-balance). Of course I love getting fresh sausage from The Goose, and his tastes the best, by far; but for some reason (probably a good one) it falls apart very easily when it cooks a bit, and I prefer nice chunks of sausage in this dish.
I’ve used everything from romas to cherry tomatoes; the only difference would be to seed larger tomatoes if you desire (skipping this step will just make a soupier sauce). Since, in September, your garden basil might have long-ago flowered (and therefore turned funky), you can replace it with Italian parsley (a great herb to always have on hand… it’s cheap, and if you buy it at the grocery it’ll keep in a jar of water on your counter for a week or more). Add red pepper flakes if you want a kick; this is an easy supper that can handle heavy customization.
Pasta with Italian sausage and fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 pound (about 2 links) fresh Italian sausage
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- about 1 pint roma or cherry tomatoes, or 2-3 slicers, chopped (seeded if large)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 pound short pasta (bowties, rotini, penne)
- fresh-grated parmesan
- chopped fresh basil, for garnish
- olive oil
Fill a large saucepan or dutch oven with water and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casing, and crumble into the saucepan. Cook until brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until fully cooked (about five minutes). Remove the sausage to a plate, and pour off all but a couple tablespoons fat from the pan (you might not have to pour off any, if your sausage was on the lean side).
Add the onions to the pan, and cook until beginning to soften but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes plus salt and pepper to taste; reduce the heat to low, and let cook gently for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, when your water has come to a boil, add salt (1 Tbsp for every 5 quarts) and cook your pasta to al dente. Drain well.
You’ll know your sauce is ready when the tomatoes are soft and cooked down a little; just add your pasta and cooked sausage right to the skillet, and toss to coat. Serve, topped with basil, grated parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil.