Comfort food. Pure and utter comfort food. What’s wrong with that? I tell you what’s wrong… Nothing. When it’s cold and rainy outside, a good bowl of pasta will always make it better. Food is meant to make you feel good, that’s the point of it. Like I’ve said before we should be living to eat, not eating to live, and this bowl of pasta… yes, this tiny bowl of pasta, is about to change your world.
There’s one thing I probably should mention before I start here, and this pretty much applies to most of the recipes I will post on this blog. When it comes to measuring out ingredients, I’m a little lazy. Actually no, I’m not lazy, I’m just a true believer in testing your food as you go and altering it to suit your own taste. I mean, one day I might want a fiery sausage ragu, and one day I might want a really creamy ragu, and that’s totally okay. Basically what I’m trying to say is if I tell you to ‘add one teaspoon of paprika’, just do what the hell you like! It’s your dish at the end of the day. All I’m here to do is inspire (hopefully) and give you guys a little outline to help you out.
Anyway back to the recipe at hand. I love cooking Italian food, it’s by far my favourite cuisine. And I truly believe that pasta is one of the best, but yet extremely underrated ingredients out there. When people think pasta, they think boring, simple and unexciting, well I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. Give this recipe a go and I can assure you it will change your perception of pasta.
There’s a lot of ways of adjusting this dish to suit everyones tastes. Normally in this recipe I go for proper, top quality Cumberland sausages which is my favourite choice, but I’ve also tried it with pork and leek sausages, pork and chilli and Lincolnshire. All work brilliantly. Just have a play around with it. There are no limits to this recipe. Like I said before, my role here is to inspire, yours is to do the cooking and eating… Enjoy!
6 good-quality sausages, skins removed
8 slices of pancetta, roughly chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
800ml good hot vegetable stock (I use Knorr stock pots for everything- amazing!)
Dried chilli flakes
2 bay leaves
A couple of sprigs of rosemary and thyme
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons of mascarpone
400g rigatoni pasta or any other tube shaped pasta (fresh is always better)
Salt and fresh black pepper for seasoning
Parmesan for serving
- Heat around about a tablespoon’s worth of olive oil in a large pan on a medium to high heat. Add in the finely chopped onion, carrot and celery and fry until soft.
- Add in the chopped garlic, fry for a further minute and then add the sausage meat and pancetta to the pan. Continue to fry until all the meat starts to turn golden and the sausage meat begins to break up.
- At this point, pour in all that hot vegetable stock and then add in the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and a few pinches (or however much you like) of dried chilli flakes. Give it a good stir, turn down to simmer and then pop a lid on the pan and let those flavours infuse. Please do NOT add any salt at this point, wait until the end to see if it’s needed. I guarantee with the salt in the vegetable stock, pancetta and sausages, not much (if any) will be required.
- Now it’s up to you how long you want to simmer your ragu for, but I recommend somewhere between 3-4 hours. If you want to simmer it for longer, go for it, just make sure you add more stock at the beginning so the ragu doesn’t dry out. If you find that the stock hasn’t reduced as much as you had of liked it to at the end, that’s ok! Just mix an equal ratio of cornflour with water into a smooth paste and mix it through the ragu to thicken the sauce. Remember, the mascarpone will help with thickening the sauce too though.
- For the pasta, bring a large pan (a large pan is important so the pasta does not stick together) of water to a rolling boil- this is where the water is crazy hot and bubbling everywhere! Make sure it is slightly salted so that the pasta is nicely flavoured and cook according to the instructions on the packet. Fresh pasta will cook a lot quicker than dried pasta.
- When the pasta is nearly cooked, remove the lid off the sausage ragu pan and add 2 tablespoons of mascarpone, a generous amount of fresh black pepper and the lemon zest and give it a good stir. You may also need a ladle or two of the pasta water to loosen your sauce a bit. NOW is the time to add salt if you feel it needs it, but remember, your pasta will also be slightly salted.
- Drain the pasta and transfer it to the sausage ragu pan and mix everything together fairly quickly until all the pasta is coated with that beautiful, rich, creamy sauce.
- Add grated parmesan to serve.