… Irish bangers, meaty Midwestern brats, hearty German frankfurters, milky Austrians, Chinese porkers and yes, even, to be fair, those tiny Viennas. Hopefully, I’ll be able to guest blog about those too in the future, but for this one, let’s focus on the Italians.
Italian sausages are robust and can ease their way into virtually any dish. Which is why I was head over heels happy to find the Monte Carlo Deli in Burbank. Walking in past the amazing case of homemade biscotti and cannoli, I encountered a nicely zipped up meat and cheese display centered with a large, gleaming, stainless steel butcher’s bin of bulging, raw authentic fennel links underneath dangling balls of provolone. You could tell the sausages were a big seller because there were so many fresh ones in a pile as if they were expected to continually slip off the shelves through the course of the day. We unloaded half a dozen of our own and enjoyed them three ways over the course of the next few weeks. First in vanilla fashion, we coaxed them to bursting in the toaster oven before slicing and enjoying with cheese and berries from the garden. Secondly in traditional missionary style, we plumped them up firm as an accompaniment to simple tomato-dressed pasta and olive oil-sautéed zucchini. And finally with a twist of S&M kink, we cut them up and incorporated them into a pot of homemade sauce with girth-y spaghetti.
2 large fresh, spicy Italian fennel sausage links
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot or 1/2 large carrot, finely chopped
1 small stalk of celery, including the green tops, finely chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1-3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
The secret of this sauce is to first slow cook the sausage links in a heavy pan on low for about an hour until they are heated all the way through, watching them carefully and flipping them over regularly to cause a nice burnt (but not overly) line here and there on the link. This causes the sausage to become multiflavored and textured adding to the complexity of the final sauce. Once done, keep the links at room temperature, reserved for the sauce.
Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and parsley. Stir to coat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and cooked through.
Remove cover and add the minced garlic. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, including the juice and shredding them with your fingers. Add the tomato paste and the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. If you want you can push the sauce through a food mill, or blend it with an immersion blender, to give it a smooth consistency but I like it chunky and textural.
During the last 15 minutes of cooking the sauce, cook the pasta.
At the end, cut the sausage links into one or two-inch chunks and throw into the pan of sauce and toss. Let it sit and heat for about two minutes. Then, serve over a bed of thick spaghetti.