Pasta della casa
My Italian inlaws will probably be appalled at this, but I have come up with a simple pasta dish that I absolutely love. I almost always have the ingredients, so it is a good "I don't feel like grocery shopping" dish.
1 onion, chopped
3 – 6 cloves of garlic, or (gasp) garlic powder
1 lb. of Italian sausage. I use the mild blend from my supermarket, because I can always add spice if I need to. This is the “loose” kind, not the kind in casings. If you have the kind in casings, you need to squeeze it out, and that’s kind of gross.
About half a box of Angel hair pasta (it’s a one-pound box)
1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes, preferably Roma
Splash of red wine
About a cup of chicken or beef or veal stock
Maybe a T of anchovy paste (optional, but once you have tried it, you'll be sorry if you leave it out)
3T tomato paste (buy the kind in the tube so you can keep it in the fridge and squeeze it out like toothpaste)
Salt, pepper, herbs that you like
Parmesan cheese that you grate or that you buy grated, because I’m not looking
A little bit of butter or olive oil
Equipment: A cast iron pan and a non-reactive dutch oven such as Le Creuset. You do not need pot and colander for the pasta, which will be explained later in the instructions.
Sweat the onion in the butter or oil in the cast iron pan and move into the Le Creuset dutch oven.
Brown the sausage in the cast iron pan. I know you could do this in the Le Creuset, but I like to put it in the cast iron pan in big pieces and use my metal spatula to break it up into meatball size chunks, and you shouldn’t use metal in the Le Creuset because it will damage the enamel. The metal spatula won’t hurt the cast iron skillet, but the acid from the tomato sauce might (not permanently, but would hurt the seasoning of the cast iron, which is what keeps things from sticking. That’s why I use two pans, but only two.
When the sausage is really crispy browned – and I like it to even be blackened on some sides – move it over to the dutch oven. Pour in the tomatoes, juice and all. You can cut up the tomatoes if you want, or put the in the metal pan and chop them roughly with the spatula, which is what I do, before quickly moving them to the enamel pan, where they won't hurt my lovely cast iron. Throw in the peeled and chopped cloves of garlic, as much as you want. And herbs. And the splash of wine. And the broth. And the tomato paste. And the anchovy paste. Simmer for as long as you can stand it, stirring only because you want to check to make sure it hasn’t boiled dry. Add more broth or wine or even water if it is getting kind of dry.
Make sure that you have at least three inches of liquid at the top of the pot. Bring it up to a boil. Then take about ½ pound of the angel hair pasta, break it in half (probably do this in three or so bunches) and drop it into the boiling liquid. That’s right, don’t boil the pasta separately and drain it, just throw it right in to the sauce. It will cook right there.
The pasta will thicken the sauce and absorb the sauce and taste wonderful, and because it is angel hair, it will cook pretty quickly. When it is all bendy and opaque, taste the sauce to see if you even need to add salt and pepper, then scoop some of the pasta and sauce into your preferred bowl or plate, add grated cheese, pour a glass of wine and sigh.
This reheats wonderfully, even in the microwave. The pasta really soaks up the sauce, so you will probably need to add liquid.
I'm pretty sure you could riff on this as much as you want. Saute some mushrooms with the onions? Why not? Want more sauce? Sure, use more tomatoes. Want it spicier? Knock yourself out.