Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Celebration Rigatoni with Sausage and Peppers

Maybe we were just happy that the race was called for Obama right as the pasta finished cooking, and the baby was sleeping, and the kitchen was light and cozy, but dinner was really yummy last night. (This confluence of events does not happen often these days.)

The baby had a busy day yesterday: a trip to the polls, then brunch, then he and I went to the market. Maybe I'm weird that I like doing the grocery shopping. I really enjoy it! My schedule allows me to go to a nice store, in the off-peak hours, and I have a sweet baby who loves to be worn in the ergo and look at all the food and people. So when we got home he was tired and hungry, ripe for being nursed down so the grown-ups could have a peaceful dinner. We really need to remember that babies are like puppies and need to be taken out and tired out each day.

This is a recipe I've been doing for years, tweaking it a little each time. Last night it was pretty much perfect. The most important thing is not to rush the onions and peppers. You want to let them carmelize a bit to really develop the sweetness. That tames the tomatoes and gives the whole thing a hearty depth of flavor.

 Celebration Rigatoni with Sausage and Peppers
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 large onion, sliced in half moons
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup red wine
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 bag baby spinach leaves
a few tablespoons heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni
a generous handful grated parmesan

Heat a heavy bottomed saute pan until pretty darn hot, and brown the sausage. Remove and let drain on a paper towel. Before the pan cools, add some olive oil and the onions and heat on medium-high until they just begin to brown. Add the bell peppers, season generously with salt and pepper, and heat until they barely begin to wilt, and turn the heat to low. Let them melt together until very soft, at least 30 minutes. Longer here is better. Use this time to make salad, load the dishwasher, drink wine, mingle with your dinner guest, set the table, or hush a crying baby.

Deglaze the pan with a glug of red wine, scraping up all that yummy browned sausage bits. Add the can of tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Put the pot of pasta water on to boil. Allow the sauce to simmer at least 20 minutes, until very thick and saucy. Taste and adjust seasonings. I contemplated adding some herbs here, but it didn't need it. The sauce should be very tangy and sweet. It should feel full and round on the tongue. If it doesn't, add salt and cook longer.

When the pasta water is boiling, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente. At this time, add the spinach to the sauce and allow to wilt. Add the browned sausage and allow to heat through. Just before the pasta finishes cooking, turn off the heat and add a few tablespoons heavy cream. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings again.

Reserve some pasta water and then drain the pasta. Return it to the pot. Pour the sauce on top, add the generous handful parmesan, some pasta water to loosen the sauce, and toss.

Dish up. Serve with extra parmesan and/or a drizzle of olive oil.

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