Italian Sausage and Heirloom Tomato One-Pot Pasta
Apologies to the Nonnas. But this non-traditional method of making pasta is my go-to technique for getting a delicious meal on the table within 30 minutes, and easily feeding a large group in a short space of time.
Ingredients (in order of appearance)
1 stick (125g) of butter
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced or chopped
A handful of basil (leaves only, not stems)
4 Italian sausages (your choice of spice level, I like hot for a kick)
1lbs / 500g of heirloom cherry tomatoes, pierced or halved (I like to do a mix for texture), or regular heirlooms loosely chopped in big chunks.
1 packet (500g) of pasta (your choice of shape but I like rigatoni or paccheri)
4-6 cups water (or whatever is needed to just cover the pasta when it's in the pot)
Basil leaves to garnish
The trick is to start with a cold stock pot (ie, not preheated), and put the butter in while the pot is still cool. Turn the heat to medium and move the butter around the base of the pot to get a little grease over the whole bottom of the pot. Before all the butter is melted, throw in the garlic and basil. As little bubbles start to form in the butter and the garlic begins to sizzle, add a splash of olive oil (about a tablespoon or so) and give it a stir with a wooden spoon, which cools the butter and allows the garlic and basil to continue infusing into the butter and oil. Repeat one to two more times until the garlic is soft and starting to crisp.
Turn the heat to medium-high. Split the sausages with a knife and put the sausage meat into the pan (throw out the sausage casing). Brown the sausage meat, then throw in the cherry tomatoes.
When the tomatoes are slightly softened, throw in the pasta, turn your heat up to high and pour in enough water to JUST cover the pasta (you may have some edges of it still sticking out). A handful of salt and a few cracks of pepper will help bring out the flavours here. If you want to get really fancy, throw in a thumb-sized amount of parmesan rind to give it extra umami.
Give it another good stir to ensure the flavours get mixed in and that the pasta is settled properly into the pan. Put a lid on the pot and bring to the boil (you'll need to watch this pot - it will boil, don't worry*).
When the water is at a consistent boil, remove the lid, give it another stir and let it keep boiling on medium-high heat til the pasta is just al dente. You want a nice little bite on your pasta for this. For me, it usually takes about 7-8 minutes, and during that time I'll stir it every couple of minutes to ensure the pasta is cooking evenly and not sticking to the pan.
You need to keep the boil going during this time to ensure you don't end up with mushy pasta, and also to reduce the sauce as the pasta cooks.
When you've got your al dente pasta, turn off the heat and spoon into pasta bowls. Garnish with a little more salt and pepper (to taste) and some basil and mangiare!
*Watched pots do boil... eventually.