When I was a young girl, my grandma and grandpa raised pigs, and they would ask the traveling town butcher to come and assist them with the slaughter and the butchering, so that every single part of each animal would be put to good use. From the pig came prosciutto, pancetta, lard, head cheese, and sausage, among other things. The sausages were hung with great care next to the prosciutto in the cantina, and in the winter months they made the best accompaniment to cabbage for a simple and easy pasta dish. This is a great winter pasta recipe. It is easy and flavorful and combines pasta, meat, and veggies in one dish. If you are worried about kids and cabbage, just cut the cabbage thinner and let it cook longer in the sauce; it will break down, almost disappearing into the sauce, and make it creamier—the kids won’t notice the veggies but will love the taste.
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 sweet Italian sausages (totaling about 12 ounces), removed from casings
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 small head savoy cabbage, coarsely shredded
- Peperoncino flakes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, crumble in the sausage. Crumbling it with a wooden spoon, cook until the sausage is browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the red onion and thyme. Stir and cook until the onion begins to wilt, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, and season with 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of peperoncino. Cook until the cabbage begins to brown and wilt, 5 to 6 minutes. Make a space in the pan, and add the tomato paste to that spot. Cook and stir the tomato paste there for a minute, until it darkens a shade or two; then stir it into the cabbage. Add 2 cups pasta water, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover, and cook until the cabbage is very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover, and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer to thicken it slightly, if needed, about 2 minutes.
When the cabbage is almost done, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it’s al dente. Add it to the simmering sauce. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding a little pasta water if it seems dry. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the grated cheese, toss, and serve.