Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)

Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)


A recipe for Sausage and Broccolini Pasta and a tale of the Elusive Casing

Charcutepalooza Round #6
The Challenge: Homemade Italian Sausage

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you must be prepared to traverse the county, futilely cold call farmer’s market purveyors, and face rejection at multiple Whole Foods stores and independent markets in search of the elusive casing a.k.a. pig intestines – or the sacred vessel that contains the cherished meat in the form of a sausage.

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you shall be prepared to pay dearly for said casing when located, because either:

  • The local supermarket is flummoxed when it comes to charging for an empty casing, and, at the risk of compromising highly sensitive payment technologies, will charge you the price of a whole sausage. Yes, that’s right: You will be required to pay for a sausage without meat.
  • You belatedly order from the stalwart Charcutepalooza ally, D’Artagnan, thereby assuming full responsibility (and overnight shipping charges) due to your procrastination, in order to avert a last minute crisis and Charcutepalooza meltdown.
  • Or you flee your suburban confines for the lure and anonymity of the big city  – and the Ferry Building – which entails paying bridge tolls, parking fees, and extraneous charges in the form of lunch and shopping. (Hey, it’s the Ferry Building.)

If you succeed in obtaining the elusive casing you will be jubilant and nearly home free, until you unpack your brand new meat grinder and sausage stuffer and realize you must decipher a cryptic code to correctly assemble the tools to achieve your desired results. Your trusted assistant, a.k.a. spouse, will selflessly risk life, limb and marital conflict, while cautiously advising you on all matters of RTM (that’s code for Reading The Manual). You will soldier on and prevail, sausages and marriage in tact, another Chaructepalooza challenge met with glorious and grillable results.

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Given the amount of effort required to find the sausage casing, it’s not without irony that many recipes including sausage in pasta or on pizza, recommend discarding the casings and crumbling the meat. Well, rest assured, this recipe requires no such thing.

Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta with Basil
Serves 4 

1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, penne, pipette rigate
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage links (see below)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
3/4 pound broccolini, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in half, plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice in 1/4 inch pieces.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccolini and continue to sauté until bright green but still crisp, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer 3-4 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Add pasta and sausages to the skillet. Toss to combine and thoroughly heat through. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves and cheese. Serve immediately garnished with extra cheese and basil.

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Homemade Italian Sausage
Makes about 3 1/2 pounds sausage, or 12 links

I followed Hank Shaw’s sausage making technique in this post from Simply Recipes  and used these ingredients  for the filling:

3 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 pound pork fat
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted, finely ground
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced  fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry red wine

What is Charcutepalooza?

An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

My Mortar and Pestle and a Guacamole Recipe

My Mortar and Pestle and a Guacamole Recipe

Mortar and Pestle

My favorite kitchen tool is a stone mortar and pestle. It sits proudly on my kitchen counter, holding its own in a caveman-esque sort of way, flaunting its primal elegance in between the commercial stove and espresso machine.  It’s smugly confident in its weight and kitchen hierarchy (deemed decorative) while my food processor and standing mixer are banished behind cabinet doors (deemed clutter.)   New kitchen techniques are awe-inspiring and futuristic, yet my mortar is old and wise with a lineage extending as far back as the Old Testament.  Evaporators, anti-griddles, gastro-vacs may be cutting edge, favored by professional chefs and avant-garde molecular gastronomy experts, but my mortar has a stellar history as an essential tool to Native Americans, ancient Romans and Greeks, medieval pharmacists and home cooks spanning the ages from the dawn of civilization.  It is the embodiment of simplicity and timelessness, pleasingly tactile and massively elemental.  And it’s affordable.

What can you do with a mortar and pestle?  You can grind, pound and smash to your heart’s content, making pestos, pastes, sauces, dips, dressings and marinades.  You can grind seeds into powder.  (I assure you the results of lightly toasting cardamon, cumin or coriander seeds and then grinding them to a fine powder in a mortar will yield results unparalleled by the pre-ground versions.)  The mortar is also the perfect place to smash garlic with sea salt, adding fresh cut herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, mint. Crush the garlic first with the salt, then add the herbs and bruise them by giving them a few turns with the pestle to release their juices and flavor.  You will be left with a powerful, aromatic paste you can smear on meats and poultry before roasting.

Mortar 001 Mortar 006

You can also create a complete dish and serve it in the mortar. Try making guacamole. Serve with chips, and you have one-stop-shopping in a primitive vessel.

Guacamole Ingredients Guacamole

Guacamole

If you don’t have a mortar, then simply combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork to achieve a chunky consistency. Makes about 2 cups.

1 red or green jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
3 large ripe hass avocados
2 tablespoons coarsely grated yellow onion with juice
Juice of one lime
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco

Prepare:
Combine the jalapeño, garlic, and red onion in a mortar. Press on the ingredients with your pestle, and grind them around the mortar in a circular movement, 3 to 4 times.  Add the cilantro and gently bruise the leaves with the pestle. Add the avocados, yellow onion, and lime juice and mash to form a blended but chunky consistency. Stir in the cumin, salt, black pepper, and hot sauce and taste for seasoning.