THE STORY: This recipe is a variation on a sauce I first enjoyed in Montepulciano, the one is Tuscany. After touring the wine caves, my wife and I wandered into a trattoria for lunch. We ordered a “bis,” two pastas to share, not to be confused with a “tris,” which is three. The server brought penne in pesto and orecchiette with sausage and red pepper. Eat the pesto first, he recommended. Right, the pepper.
Around this time back home, we were eating in a restaurant called “Il Posto,” the place, that served strozzo preti with sausage and leeks. The guys at the place knew what they were doing. I liked both sauces and decided to combine them, adding a little tomato.
Here you go: A quick sauce that tastes of Tuscany and The Place. Rainy day food. Any day food.
THE NICHE: There are days you just want pasta. Go for it. And there are days you have pasta AND the rest of the meal, the way Italians eat. Go for that too.
PREP TIME: 10 min
COOK TIME: 30 min
INGREDIENTS: A link of Italian sausage, one leek, red pepper flakes, tomato puree, olive oil, salt and pepper, pasta (wheels or garganelli)
Plain Italian sausage recommended–that means no fennel. Fennel is strong and overpowers everything. Unfortunately it is ubiquitous in American Italian markets. Ask for plain Italian sausage. One link 4-6 inches in length will give you enough meat for this sauce.
Cut the rooty end off the leek and peel off a layer of leaves. Thin slice six inches up the length of it, including some of the dark green part. Leeks can be dirty. If that’s the case, rinse thoroughly in cold water.
Saute the leeks on medium heat in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Remove the sausage from its skin and mash it up. Stir the sausage into the saute, raising the heat under the pan, rolling and poking the sausage to break it into bigs. After 2-3 minutes, lower the heat to medium and add a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot). Also add a cup of tomato puree.
Stir everything together, set the heat on low, cover and cook 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Salt to taste. This will be a meaty sauce. Match it with a short pasta like garganelli or wheels.