sausage "bolognese" with tagliatele and pecorino-romano

dinner, autumn, main dishes, winterRachel SandersComment

Okay, I'm going to toot my own horn for a little bit, but you're going to get a kick-ass pasta sauce recipe at the end, so I promise it will all be worth it.

I'm going to start by saying that I've been delaying giving you this recipe, because it is one of the best things I know how to make, and what exactly is my claim to fame going to be when all of you know how to make it, too? That I can salsa dance at a relatively-okay level? That I know all of the words to "Rollercoaster of Love" and can also make my voice sound like a kazoo? That one of our chickens likes to ride around on my shoulder while I'm in the garden and I will sometimes pretend that I'm a landlocked pirate?

You guys are nice and great and I'm happy you're here and everything, but really. You're not leaving me with much to work with.

Here's the story behind this pasta sauce, along with my reasons for sharing it with you:

I first made this pasta for Richard in our junior year of college, and I am immensely proud of my college self for coming up with something so rad. That being said, I screwed up just after I made this for the first time, and I LOST the little scrap of paper on which I had scribbled ingredients and proportions on the off-chance that the sauce turned out well (which it did) and I wanted to make it again (which I most definitely did). I found the paper scrap in my senior year of college, and then wrote the recipe down in a notebook of Richard's. Which we then lost AGAIN when Richard moved to his first post-college apartment, and then FOUND when we moved Richard out of his place and into our first shared apartment. And then LOST again when we moved to Utah.

This post is a gigantic spoiler alert that the notebook has since been found, but in short, we have a terrible track record of hanging on to this recipe. And thus, I no longer have the right to keep this recipe to myself, because I'll just lose it again at some point in the future. Your track record, however, is perfect, and you will never lose this because now it will be on the internet, where everything exists forever.

I also hereby give you leave to make this recipe your own. Vary the ratios of spicy to mild sausage, or use all one or all the other. Add freshly chopped herbs, such as oregano or basil, at the end for more color. And don't feel obligated to call it bolognese, but that is how Richard refers to this sauce, and it truly does have all of the great qualities of a classic, slow-cooked Italian meat sauce. And when someone you love asks you to make "your bolognese sauce," that is when you forget semantics and appreciate what a wonderful request that is.

I hope you love it.

makes sauce for 1.5-2 pounds of pasta - serves 4-8

I will make this sauce a day or two ahead of when I plan to serve it, if I'm thinking ahead. Just like most braised and stewed dishes, it seems to taste better when the flavors have time to hang out together. And even better, dinner comes together in the amount of time it takes to cook pasta, which is not very long at all!

2 tsp + 2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (mild, spicy, or 1/2 pound of each, depending on preference)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery branches, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 chiles de arbol, finely crushed with your fingers
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
black pepper
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream
fresh lemon juice, to taste (optional)

1.5-2 pounds Tagliatele, or other pasta

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over a medium flame. Add the sausage and let it brown a little, using a spatula to break it up into smaller pieces as it cooks. Once nearly all of the sausage is no longer pink, remove it from the pot and set aside (don't worry about any remaining pinkness; the sausage will go back in the pot later to cook again for an extended time).

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, along with the onion, carrots, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and begin to brown. Make a well in the center of the vegetables, add the remaining tablespoon olive oil to the well, and add the garlic and chiles to the oil. Cook, stirring in the well constantly, for 15 seconds, before mixing the garlic and chiles into the rest of the vegetables.

Mix in the tomato paste, oregano, basil, and bay leaf. Add the red wine, and let reduce for a minute. Add the tomatoes, along with a pinch of kosher salt and a grind of black pepper, and then add the sausage back to the pot. Wait until the sauce reaches a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a little water if the sauce seems to be reducing too quickly.

Once the tomatoes are fully cooked and the sausage has softened, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the oregano, basil, and bay leaf from the sauce and discard. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce as much or as little as you'd like. (I like mine to be blended to the point that there aren't large chunks of sausage, but I can still see pieces of carrot and tomato... I guess you would call that chunky? I don't know.) Stir in the cream, and taste. Season with additional salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice, to taste.

Notes on making the pasta and finishing the dish - when I'm ready to cook my pasta, I put my sauce back on the stove and heat it just to a simmer (turning the heat to low once it reaches a simmer).

I cook my pasta until it is almost, but not quite done (still has more of a bite than I'd like), and then I transfer it with tongs or a slotted spoon directly to the (hot) sauce to finish cooking. This helps your pasta and sauce become a more cohesive dish, and also adds more flavor to the pasta as it finishes cooking in the sauce.

Once the pasta is completely coated in the sauce, I remove the pot from the heat and serve it straightaway with a plenty of Pecorino-romano on the side.

beet, carrot, and kale salad with pistachios and feta

salads, spring, summer, vegetarian, winterFieldandForestComment

My parents are notorious among friends and family for their fierce hatred of beets.  There was an incident many years before I was born involving a cabin, a power outage, beets, and food poisoning, that I believe has festered and expanded into almost a PTSD-level association where the mention of them incites physical shuddering*.

Oh wow, I just thought of the best April Fool's Day joke... I am going to give my dad a copy of Harry Potter, but I'm going to cross out each place that says "Voldemort" and instead write-in "beets."  HA.

Because I trusted my parents' judgement, I thought that I, too, was a beet hater, just like I thought I was a democrat (which turned out to be true) and I was scared of roller coasters (which turned out to be false-ish).  I don't actually remember my first beet, but somewhere in college, I must have ventured out of my comfort zone and given them a try, because I have spent many meals since then trying to make up for lost time.  Beets are freaking amazing.

This salad is a favorite winter-into-spring-into-summer recipe, and is great for when you want your meal to be vegetables, but you want vegetables to be a MEAL.  You will not feel hungry after you finish this salad, though if you're worried, you could always do what I do and make the entire recipe for just yourself.

Beet, Carrot, and Kale Salad with Pistachios and Feta
(serves 1-2 for dinner, or 3-4 as a side salad)

3 large beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into 1-inch dice (see note on roasting beets below)
1 pound carrots, peeled and roasted (I had baby Paris Market carrots on hand; you can use unpeeled young carrots, simply scrub them well before roasting)
1 bunch purple (or other) kale
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped, divided
1/4 pound sheep's milk feta, divided

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced 1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
A few good glugs of olive oil (2-4 tablespoons; I usually err on the side of less, and use just enough to create a dressing with a little body that is still nicely bright from the acid).

Make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl you'll use for the finished salad.  Combine the lemon juice and red wine vinegar, and add the garlic clove, salt, and pepper.  Let it hang out for a moment while the salt dissolves and the acid tempers the garlic slightly (this is a great time to pick the parsley leaves off of their stems or chop the pistachios if you haven't already, OR you can watch this if everything's prepped and ready to go).  Whisk the oil into the acid mixture to emulsify, and taste using a bit of a kale leaf.  Adjust seasoning as necessary, and set aside.

Rinse the kale leaves well, and towel dry.  Lay a leaf flat on a cutting surface, and slice out the stem (you can save the stems for soup, or give them to some soon-to-be-happy chickens).  Repeat with the rest of the kale leaves.  Once all of the stems have been removed, stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them up lengthwise.  Slice (chiffonade) them into 1/4-1/2 inch thick "ribbons" (depending on your kale, you may get pieces of different sizes in your finished salad, which I think is lovely). Run your knife through the ribbons once or twice if you prefer smaller pieces of kale.

Place the kale in your salad bowl, and add the carrots, beets, and parsley leaves.  Toss the salad gently with your hands until everything is evenly coated with dressing.  Crumble 2/3 of your feta over the salad, and sprinkle over 2/3 of your pistachios.  Toss again gently.  Crumble the remaining feta over the salad, and sprinkle on the remaining pistachios.  Serve immediately.

*UPDATE: so, after speaking with my parents, I learned that the cabin/power outage/food poisoning combo was related to CLAMS not BEETS.  The beet hatred, to quote my father, "is genetic."