Sunday, 4 November 2012

Pennoni with Pork Ragú

You know, you've got to love a bit of sausage. Sausages are cheap and versatile ingredients.  Here, I've squeezed them out and used them as a cheap alternative to your standard beef Bolognaise sauce for delicious Italian eats on a budget.

Pasta is a brilliant but somewhat misunderstood ingredient.  Often, when we Brits eat a pasta dish, we think of the pasta as a side dish to a gargantuan portion of meat, much as we would use potatoes.  Really, the pasta is supposed to be the main event, and if you include meat it's supposed to be a sauce to lightly coat it.  This is why you get different pasta shapes - it's not purely cosmetic, it's designed to hold a certain type of sauce, and with short tubular pasta like pennoni or macaroni the meat sauce will get caught in the recesses.

I'm also going to take a rebellious break from the usual format of my recipes.  I recommend making a large quantity of sauce that you can slow cook and then keep in the fridge so that you can make quick but tasty meals later in the week.  Traditionally a ragú would use red wine rather than stock, but this cheaper alternative works fine and I think it's silly to spend more money on expensive wine for what is supposed to be a peasant dish.

  • 12 x good quality pork sausages
  • 2 x 400g tins Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 4 x garlic cloves
  • 4 x bay leaves
  • 1 x level tbsp dried oregano or basil
  • 1 x tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 x large white onion
  • 1 x large carrot
  • 2 x sticks of celery
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 100g pennoni (for each individual serving)
  • 2 x tbsps olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat a large, heavy-based saucepan on a medium-high heat.
  2. Finely dice your carrot, onion and celery.  Heat some olive oil in the pan and sweat the vegetables and garlic cloves off with a bit of salt.  When the vegetables are transluscent,  stir in the oregano until it's fragrant, then add the squeeze the meat out of the sausages and into the pan, breaking up any clumps with a wooden spoon.
  3. Once the sausages have browned, create a well in the centre of the pan and add your tomato purée to it.  Cook it out for a few minutes to take the edge off it a bit, then mix it into your meat sauce.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes, season the sauce with salt and pepper, throw in the bay leaves and add just enough chicken stock to cover.  Bring it to the boil, then let it simmer gently for about two hours, stirring occasionally, and check the seasoning (it shouldn't need too much as the sausages are already seasoned).  If you're not going to eat it right now, let it cool completely before storing it in the fridge in a clean airtight container.
  5. When cooking the pennoni, you want to use 1 litre of water for every 100g of pasta.  Add a bit of salt and bring it to the boil.  Add the pennoni and give it a good stir to prevent sticking - don't waste olive oil, your pasta won't stick.
  6. Give the pennoni about ten minutes to cook.  If you've made a large quantity of the ragú, reheat some in a non-stick saucepan.  Taste it to check that the pennoni is al denté, add a bit of water to the sauce to loosen it, drain the pennoni and stir it into the ragú, making sure it gets nicely coated, and serve immediately.

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