Friday, October 27, 2017

Sausage Ragu

This Sunday will likely be the last Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market of the season. Last week's rain disrupted the planned market, but this Sunday should be sunny, so you can be sure to find fresh eggs and pastured chicken, beef, pork, and lamb from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm, baked goods made with local whole grains from WildFlour Oven, and plenty of fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm

Since it is the last market of the season, besides indulging in baked goods and delicious food for the week, you should plan to stock up on winter squash, onions, root vegetables, and frozen meats for the winter. 

I would suggest picking up the fixings for this sausage ragu from the New York Times. I make a version with double the vegetables, producing enough sauce to freeze away for two additional meals. Made with Fair Valley Farm's sausage and Camas Swale's carrots, celery and giant shallots, the vibrant flavors will brighten a future rainy winter day.

Sausage Ragu
makes enough for three meals of one pound of pasta; freezes well
1 pound sweet Italian sausage or bulk sausage
 Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 carrot, minced
4 celery stalk, minced
¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with its juice
2 large sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons tomato paste
 Ground black pepper
1 pound tubular dried pasta such as mezzi rigatoni, paccheri or penne
 Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional

1. Crumble the sausage meat into a wide, heavy skillet or Dutch oven and set over medium-low heat. If the meat is not rendering enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan as it begins to cook, add olive oil one tablespoon at a time until the meat is frying gently, not steaming. Sauté, breaking up any large chunks, until all the meat has turned opaque (do not let it brown), about 5 minutes.

2. Add onion, carrot, celery and parsley and stir. Drizzle in more oil if the pan seems dry. Cook over very low heat, stirring often, until the vegetables have melted in the fat and are beginning to caramelize, and the meat is toasty brown. This may take as long as 40 minutes, but be patient: It is essential to the final flavors.

3. Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands or with the side of a spoon. Bring to a simmer, then add thyme and rosemary and let simmer, uncovered, until thickened and pan is almost dry, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Mix tomato paste with 1 cup hot water. Add to pan, reduce heat to very low, and continue cooking until the ragù is velvety and dark red, and the top glistens with oil, about 10 minutes more. Remove herb sprigs. Sprinkle black pepper over, stir and taste.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta until just tender. Scoop out 2 cups cooking water, drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Quickly add a ladleful of ragù, a splash of cooking water, stir well and let cook 1 minute. Taste for doneness. Repeat, adding more cooking water or ragù, or both, until pasta is cooked through and seasoned to your liking.

6. Pour hot pasta water into a large serving bowl to heat it. Pour out the water and pour in the pasta. Top with additional ragù, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately. Pass grated cheese at the table, if desired. Freeze the remaining ragu for future meals.

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