Sunday, March 3, 2013

Recipe: Tomato Sauce with Sausage and Spinach

For most of my life, I've had a complex. Call it Sauce-ophobia. I've always thought the idea of making sauces to be a super-human cooking feat. This may be because my dad, who was the cook in our family, quested for years to make the perfect spaghetti sauce. Or it may be because people on Top Chef say things like, "my sauce broke! I'm going to be on the bottom for sure!"

And then came Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. This sauce, one of the first Smitten Kitchen recipes I ever tried, literally has three ingredients (tomatoes, onion, and butter). Foodie friends swear by this recipe. It's so simple, a child (not a metaphorical child, but a literal child) could make it.

I've used the techniques I learned from that recipe to overcome my fear of sauces. This one, Tomato Sauce with Sausage and Spinach, is my favorite.

A couple of notes:

  • I like to use Applegate Organics Chicken and Turkey Andouille Sausage. I don't eat red meat or pork, and this is one of the few sausages that doesn't have a pork casing. It's also incredibly tasty. You could use any andouille or Italian sausage in the recipe. If you're vegetarian, you could use a veggie Italian sausage like Field Roast. If your sausage is uncooked, sear it in a little oil (you don't have to cook through) before you get started. Then put it on a plate, and when it's cool enough, slice it diagonally. This will allow the slices to hold together. I've also used ground turkey sausage in the sauce, but I prefer links.
  • I serve this sauce with papardelle, a wide, flat Italian pasta - it looks like ribbons. You can choose any pasta, but I like papardelle because the large surface area collects a lot of the delicious sauce. However, papardelle can be hard to find. If you have Whole Foods in your town, they have it there. For Texas residents, Spec's superstores have a much cheaper option. If you don't have a gourmet market, though, you might try orechiette pasta or fettuccine. 
  • If you want, you can add chopped mushrooms or bell pepper at the same time you add onion in the recipe below.
  • This recipe takes at least an hour of cooking time - most of that is inactive, though, so you can go watch a couple of episodes of The Mindy Project while it's cooking.
Tomato Sauce with Sausage and Spinach

1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 yellow onion, coarsley chopped
28 oz. stewed tomatoes (choose a BPA-free can) or 3-4 cups if you make your own. Drain most, but not all, of the liquid.
bay leaf
1-2 c. chopped fresh spinach
4-5 links andouille or Italian sausage (chicken, turkey, or vegetarian)
2 capfuls of balsamic vinegar
8 oz. of papardelle or orther pasta, cooked

For garnish:
fresh parsley
shaved parmesan

Step 1: Place butter in a large saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. When the butter is about half melted, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. You should still have a lump of solid butter in the pan.
Step 2: Add the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano to taste (about a teaspoon of salt and oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, if you're into measuring). Add a bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, and simmer for about 40 minutes, occasionally stirring and crushing the tomatoes up against the walls of the pot.
Step 3: Add the spinach and sausage. Simmer for at least 20 more minutes, but you can simmer for as long as 40 minutes.
Step 4: Add the balsamic.Stir.
Step 5: Stir the pasta into the sauce. Serve in bowls with a garnish of parsley and shaved parm.

Buon appetito!

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