Oh how I loathe the term “signature dish”, it makes me cringe and want to give up cooking. But then I wouldn’t be a food blogger anymore, would I?
Anyway here is my, cringe, signature dish. A bloody tasty sauce for any type of short pasta, penne (tubes) or conchiglie (shells) work best, all those crevices.
I have been making this dish since I was a student at South East Essex College. It comes from a book by Sam Stern, one of my favourite food writers and I always recommend his books to any youngsters who want to learn how to cook. When my niece and all future nieces and nephews are old enough, I’ll make sure they all have copies.
The first ever, for want of a better term, dinner party I ever cooked for (it was just my Mum, brothers and sister-in-law), was this with freshly cooked tagliatelle followed by Nigel Slater’s Very Good Chocolate Brownies with vanilla ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce. If you have any youngsters who wish to cook dinner for you or their friends, by all means let them cook this for you.
Sausage Ragu – adapted from Get Cooking and The Student Cookbook, both by Sam Stern.
Very simple. Bloody tasty. What’s not to like.
A little sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
6 Italian style or spicy pork sausages, skins removed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
A handful mushrooms, chopped small
150ml wine or chicken stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
A few thyme leaves
350g short pasta, such as penne
Freshly grated parmesan
Heat the oil in a large pan. Cook the onion, chilli and fennel seeds until softened. Crumble in the sausage meat, increase the heat a little and cook until browned. Add the mushrooms, and cook these until browned, then add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Pour in the wine or stock and allow to bubble for a few minutes, scraping up any bits from the bottom. Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring up to a boil.
Lower the heat, and allow to gently simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste. Adjust seasoning.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente (see the packet for cooking timings). Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the pasta back to the pan, spoon on the sauce, add back a little of the water and mix a little to toss.
Serve in bowls with grated parmesan. A green salad and some garlic bread wouldn’t go amiss either.
P.S. I intend to now publish a new post every weekend, rather than sporadically through the week. Just so you know.