Rustic Cavatelli with Meat Sauce

Rustic Cavatelli with Meat Sauce
From Tasting Table 

Free time suits some people.  Others have a heart attack and die the day they retire.  I’m the latter.  Well, I didn’t die, and I’m not technically retired, but somehow I’ve felt more stressed out during my first week post-graduation than I did during my final months of grad school.  I’ve given myself two full weeks off before starting to study for my registration exam to become an RD, yet somehow that’s turned into a to-do list a mile long.  My Christmas present list is barely dented, I haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie, and I still need to find a recipe that I can turn into adorable HMK food gifts (a concept that John wholeheartedly does not support, but last year’s granola was too cute to stop now!).  So far the closest I’ve come to “time-off” is sleeping till 7:45 and staying in bed till 8.  Woohoo.  Similarly, you’d think I’d be cooking daily, but instead I’m posting this recipe that we made last Thursday, in the throes of prepping for the big RD graduation celebration.  In other words, it’s quick and easy.  And delicious.  I’m kind of on a fancy pasta kick right now and was really excited to use cavatelli that I found at an Italian specialty store, but I’m sure any pasta with grooves that can capture sauce would work well.  When all’s said and done, it’s really just pasta with meat sauce, but it’s a heck of a lot tastier than anything made by combining a jar of red sauce and a pound of ground beef!

Ingredients

  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained (preferably San Marzanos, which are the absolute best for pasta sauces)
  • 1 lb cavatelli pasta (or another small shape, ideally something rustic or with ridges so that it holds the sauce better)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed, crumbled (we used hot Italian sausage, but the recipe called for mild, so either would work)
  • 8 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • big pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch saffron
  • 1 cup Romano cheese, finely grated, divided (it’s supposed to be Pecorino Romano, but I was cheap and bought the pre-grated plain Romano)

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt.  Cook according to package directions, until al dente.  Remove 1/2 cup of cooking water from the pot and set aside.  Drain the pasta.  Toss warm pasta in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to prevent it from clumping.  Set aside.
  2. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion and garlic are tender and translucent, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in sausage.  Cook, stirring often, until sausage is brown and crumbled, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, basil, red pepper flakes, saffron, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the reserved pasta cooking water.  Break the tomatoes up using a wooden spoon.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook 30 minutes.
  5. Add pasta to sauce along with 1/2 cup of the Romano cheese.  Toss to combine.
  6. Top with remaining Romano and serve warm.

Serves 4-6.

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