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Author Notes: A real crowd pleaser: a rich, meaty tomato sauce with a building warmth that lingers on the tongue. Radiatore clings to the meat crumbles, and the tomato/onion/red pepper confit slides into the spaces between. The recipe as shown is made fairly slowly, the flavors developed through long caramelization. The quality of the sausage is paramount -- the recipe works best with a spicy sausage you'd happily broil up and eat with a fork, no sauce required. —msmely
small or 1 large yellow onion, diced small
red bell pepper, diced small
cloves of garlic, minced
pound spicy Italian sausage (removed from casings if necessary)
28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes (whole, without calcium chloride)
teaspoons dried oregano
pound radiatore pasta
teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, depends how hot you like it and/or how spicy your sausage is)
olive oil to coat the pan
salt, to taste
cup reserved pasta water
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan until it begins to streak and pull away from the center.
- Add onions and sauté until beginning to brown and caramelize. If they're sticking to the bottom of the pan excessively and browning too fast, turn your heat down a notch or two.
- When the onions are softened and light brown, add the red bell pepper dice and two pinches of salt (to help draw off the moisture) and continue to sauté until the pepper is broken down and the onions are caramelized.
- Add the sausage. Crumble small and sauté until the fat is completely rendered and the meat is browned. Once the meat is cooked, taste and decide if you want to add extra red pepper flakes. If there is a lot of grease in the pan, drain off all but 1-2 tbsp of fat. This depends on how greasy your sausages are.
- Add 2/3 of the can of tomatoes, crushing them thoroughly with your hands or a stick blender. Try to add the juices only during this step. At the least, try to avoid adding the seeds of whole tomatoes. Add the oregano, and red pepper flakes if using.
- Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until well reduced. The sauce should be a reddish brown, and so thick that when you scrape the bottom of the pan, no liquid collects in the scrape. The oil should be shimmering on the surface but mix in together with some agitation.
- Add the rest of the tomatoes. You want to time this so that the tomatoes and the pasta are going in at the same time. Taste and adjust salt as necessary.
- Cook your pasta until just slightly undercooked in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with water at a rolling boil. (If using package directions, cook to 2-4 minutes less than recommended cooking time.) Do not over-salt the water, and try not to use too much. You want your leftover pasta water to be very starchy and slightly less salty than your desired finished product.
- Drain the pasta, reserving at least a cup of pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and add the sauce. Stir thoroughly and put it back on the stove on medium heat. Add a half a cup of the pasta water.
- Cook the pasta in the sauce, stirring thoroughly, until the pasta is cooked al dente. If the pan gets dry, add more pasta water. If the pan is dry and you have no more pasta water, add tap water or tomato juice.
- Serve topped with a nice sharp pecorino or other hard cheese of your choice.