When I first began my venture into cooking, one of the things that I found most daunting was pulling a good recipe (which didn't require a whole lot of fancy ingredients) together quickly.
I was still in my early twenties and as goes when you're young and going to college - you're always in a hurry and typically broke as well. Obviously the popular recipe of choice for the broke college student is pasta, but I was tired of the usual spaghetti with sauce from a jar.
I was inspired to post this particular dish, after having enjoyed a nearly indescribable dinner earlier this week at Chef Jonathan Benno's brand new restaurant Lincoln, in New York City. The recipe is in no way close to what we devoured last night, but considering I'm still lusting after the amazing Italian food extravaganza, I wanted to include you in the festivities.
This recipe is actually one of those random ideas that came from watching a cooking show on PBS. I still remember how excited I was to make such a different dish (in a hurry) with very little money.
Fusilli Pasta with Italian Sausage, Fennel Seeds, Tomatoes and Basil
- 16 ounces dried fusilli
- 1 pound mild or hot Italian sausage
- 3 cans (about 14 ½ ounces each) sliced stewed Italian-style tomatoes
- 3 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 3 teaspoons dried basil
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- basil sprigs for garnish
- grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Fill a large stock pot three-quarters full with water, add salt, cover and bring to boil over high heat.
In a large deep saute pan; pre-heat the pan over medium-high heat until hot to the touch. After having removed the casings by cutting a long slit and then peeling back the skin; add the Italian sausage into the hot pan and cook until meat is browned. Remember to stir & break the sausage into smaller pieces, while the meat is browning. Just as the meat has started to lose its pink color, add the dried basil, and continue to cook.
Once the sausage has obtained a nice deep golden brown color, stir-in the canned tomatoes and fennel seeds. The fennel seeds will provide a fragrant licorice flavor to the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the chopped fresh basil to the simmering sauce. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for an additional 15 minutes, continue to stir throughout allowing for the larger pieces of tomato to break apart as the sauce cooks.
While the sauce is simmering, the large pot of salted water should have already come up to a boil. Add the dried pasta into the salted water and cook according to the package directions. For best results, cook al dente, drain, and then set aside. Make sure to not rinse your pasta after it has cooked, so it will remain slightly slippery and allow for easier absorption of the sauce.
Return the cooked pasta to the large pot, then add the finished cooked tomato and sausage sauce. Toss thoroughly to mix and incorporate with the pasta. Once the pasta has been coated by the sauce, transfer to a large serving dish, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs and serve immediately.
Yield: 4 - 6 servings
Side note: It just occurred to me how good this dish is the next day. Try to save some leftovers, so the pasta has time to sit in all the juicy goodness and marinate with the flavors overnight. This dish is especially good with a piece of garlic bread just to sop up the sauce.