There are few things in life that make being a meat-eater more satisfying than sausage … and, by that, I mean good sausage.
After a day of exploring Montreal and a Dale Chihuly exhibit (see previous post for pictures), we returned home late and hungry. Anne attended to the needs of the dogs and I had 30 minutes to make a dinner that would fill our needs and complement a perfect day. I was craving pasta and Anne wanted sausage. The result is what follows.
In addition to the fresh tomatoes, which are bountifully arriving out of my garden, what really elevated this dish was the addition of the Shishito peppers that arrived in my CSA box this past week along with a bunch of fresh basil. What are Shishito peppers? Well, until the peppers appeared and until I had both researched and then cooked with them, I didn’t know what they were either. However, they’re now one of my favourite veggies and I’m committed to growing them myself next year. Why? Because they have an unusual combination of characteristics: they taste like a hot (capsicum) pepper without the heat …. That’s right — they taste hot but aren’t hot. Though, having said that, I’m told we should approach each pepper carefully because 1 in 10 gets very hot. The other 9, however, are pure magic. Unlike your average bell-pepper, these are thin-skinned like a banana pepper and therefore they have none of the residual bitterness you get with bells which are generally just a mix of sweet and bitter. Shishito’s have a bit of that sweetness, yes, but they also have a tonne of flavour. It is this perfect balance of flavours that is at the heart of my new romance with this pepper.
What follows is a pasta dish that takes as long to prepare as it does to boil water and cook the pasta. You can’t ask for any better than that. The only cooking tip is how to get the perfect rounds of sausage for the sauce. The trick is to either par-freeze (if fresh) or partially defrost (if frozen) the sausage. In this semi-frozen state, you can easily peel off the sausage skin and still retain the sausage shape by slicing it while still frozen. Fry it still a bit frozen and you’ll end up with perfect rounds for each bite of pasta.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Penne Arrabiata (Penne with Italian Sausage and Shishito Peppers)
- 300-350 grams penne
- 300 grams Italian sausage (two links), sliced
- 1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
- 1-2 tablespoons, extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Shishito peppers, finely sliced and chopped
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup pasta water (as necessary)
- 4 large tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut chiffonade
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- Fennel fronds (green tops) for garnish
- Prepare a pasta pot of water and set to boil.
- Meanwhile, prepare your sausage (see Cooking Tip above) and begin to fry in a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Slice the onion and add it to the sausage. If the sausage is relatively lean, add another tablespoon of oil. Continue to fry for another 5 minutes, until the sausage is cooked.
- While sausage is cooking, slice and clean the peppers and check for any hidden heat. Adjust quantity as necessary (you’re not trying to make a spicy dish). Dice and set aside. Mince the garlic. Chop the tomatoes. Chop the basil, chiffonade, and set each aside.
- When sausage is cooked, add the peppers and garlic and fry for another minute.
- Reduce temperature and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add your chopped tomatoes and continue to cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add basil and cook on medium-low for another 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
- Your pasta should be done now as well. If not, cover the sauce and keep warm while pasta finishes. The key here is to not lose the liquid in the sauce. If the tomatoes weren’t very juicy, add pasta water directly from the pot — just enough so that the sauce isn’t dry but not too wet that it won’t cling to the pasta.
- When pasta is done, remove from water and add directly to the sauce (do NOT rinse pasta) and stir well to coat all the pasta.
Serve immediately with freshly grated pepper and parmigiano reggiano.
Wine Pairing: Sangiovese.