While I was working as a travel agent in Perugia, Italy, lunch breaks were spent at the nearby “Caffe’ Perusia”. Their spread of Pastas for lunch was quite impressive. Also was impressive that I ate pasta every day and I was half the size I’m today. But that is another story.
Anyway, my favorite pasta was the one with Sausage, Rosemary, Zucchini and a creamy tomato sauce. So simple, yet so satisfying and delicious. Just a plate of pasta, an espresso and I was ready for the rest of my work day to begin.
Once I moved to Oregon, I decided I could not live without that sauce. Seriously.
I started making my own, and here is what I found out, quoting my friend Kathleen who expressed it perfectly:
Starting with good sausage is key, and find the freshest rosemary you can (since it’s going to fall apart into the sauce, use only the softer tips). Even though the tomatoes play a supporting role, if they’re not good tomatoes, you’ll know.
In fact, one of the unspoken rules of cooking is that the quality of the sauce is directly proportional to the quality of its ingredients. Also, the lesser the ingredients, the harder to camouflage the flavors …
Well, let’s get started, and you will see what I mean when I say that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Sausage, Zucchini and Rosemary Tomato sauce
Time : 3 hours (like a Ragu but not quite)
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 Cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
3/4 – 1 pound good sausage, ground (no fennel)
1/2 cup white wine
2 small to medium zucchini, grated
4 tips fresh rosemary, each about 3″ long
1 28 ounce can Italian tomatoes
1/2 cup cream
1 pound hearty pasta, such as MOSTACCIOLI or Ziti
In a large skilled saute’ the onion and garlic with the olive oil and butter. When the onion has become translucent and your garlic is fragrant, add the zucchini and the rosemary. Cook on low until the zucchini is tender. Taste for salt.
Meanwhile in a frying pan, cook the sausage until browned. Deglaze with wine, and reserve.
When the zucchini are tender, add the cooked sausage to the pan and the tomatoes.
Adjust for salt and pepper.
Cook the sauce uncovered for about 1 hour, until thick. Add the cream. Taste again for salt.
Let simmer on low for 30 more minutes until the pasta is cooked. Drain the pasta and let it cool.
DO NOT RINSE the pasta with COLD WATER. Or any water. Coat the pasta with a splash of Olive oil it you see it gets sticky.
Pre heat oven to 350F
Fill each shell with enough meat sauce to your liking. (I like my shells pretty full!!)
Arrange the filled shells in a baking dish.
Top with cheese or your favorite cheese sauce.
Cover in foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350F.
Remove the foil and finish baking until golden and crisp.