Makes about 7 cups, enough for 2 pounds of bucatini or other pasta, serving 12
This recipe makes a wonderful tomato-and-sausage sauce for pasta. Typical of Basilicata, it is uncomplicated yet yields a complex and delicious flavor. It is important to use the best sausage, preferably a mix freshly made by a real Italian butcher. If there’s one available to you, ask for sweet, all-pork sausage, preferably a medium grind of meat with some texture, rather than a fine grind, which tends to be pasty. To save work, since you want the meat to be loose, ask for the sausage mix before it is put in the casing. As for the pasta, I recommend bucatini, which is what I first had in Basilicata. But I like spaghetti with this, too—a whole-wheat spaghetti would be especially nice.
- 1½ pounds sweet Italian sausage (preferably without fennel seeds)
- 1 cup white wine
- ¾ cup whole Tuscan-style pickled peperoncini, drained (about 24 small peppers)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 6 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 cups (two 28-ounce cans) canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- 1 pound bucatini (or perciatelli or thick spaghetti)
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino (or half pecorino and half Grana Padano), plus more for passing
You will need a heavy-bottomed, high-sided skillet or sauté pan, 14-inch diameter; a large pot for cooking the pasta. Remove the sausage meat from the casings, and put it in a large bowl. Break it up with your fingers into the smallest possible bits, Pour the white wine over it, and toss the crumbled meat until it’s evenly moistened. Remove the stems of the drained peperoncini, scrape out the seeds (or leave some, if you like it hot), and slice the peppers crosswise into ¼-inch rings.
Pour the olive oil into the skillet, and set it over medium heat. Scatter in the sliced garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes. Toss the sausage meat into the skillet, and spread it out, breaking apart any clumps, and stirring with the oil and garlic. Raise the heat a bit, and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring now and then, as the meat juices bubble and evaporate. When the pan is dry and the sausage starts sizzling, season it with the salt, and scatter the peperoncini slices in the pan. Stir and cook for a minute or two, until the peppers are sizzling, too.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and 3 cups of water (with which you sloshed out the tomato containers), and stir well. Cover the pan, bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then set the cover ajar and adjust the heat to keep a steady bubbling boil. Cook for an hour or so, until the sauce has reduced by nearly half, stirring more frequently as it thickens; if it is still loose, cook uncovered for a few minutes more. When the sauce has a consistency you like for dressing pasta, turn off the heat. You can use some of the sauce right away—you’ll need half of it to dress a pound of bucatini—or let it cool (then refrigerate or freeze) for later use.
For the pasta: Fill the large pot with salted water (at leat 6 quarts water with 1 tablespoon salt), and heat to a rolling boil. Drop in the bucatini, stirring and separating the strands. Cover the pot, return the water to a boil over high heat, then set the cover ajar and cook the pasta until barely al dente. Meanwhile, heat half the sausage sauce in the big skillet back to a bare simmer; if it has cooled and thickened, loosen it with some of the pasta water. When done, lift the bucatini from the pot, let drain for a moment, and drop it into the sauce.
Toss together for a minute or two, until all the strands are coated and perfectly al dente. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the ½ cup grated cheese over the pasta, and toss well. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil if you like, and toss again. Spoon the pasta into warm bowls, and serve immediately, with more cheese at the table.