When I’m in Italy the food is a constant surprise and adventure. I love everything about their approach to food and cooking.

One of my favourite pasta dishes is spaghetti and meatballs but I also cook a slightly different take on this classic that is easier and less time consuming. I actually do love to stand at the bench rolling my meatballs but I don’t always have the time.

So to speed things up and still produce an outstanding spaghetti dish I use Italian sausages. I squeeze the divine meat out of their skins and then cook them in a hot pan, breaking them up as they sizzle. What you end up with is little mini meatballs to stir through tomato sauce and spaghetti. Admittedly their form is slightly more rustic than the perfectly round meatball but that’s hardly a problem. It still looks great, tastes even better and can be on the table in forty minutes.

Italian sausages have a great texture and tend to be coarser than your standard pork sausage. They also taste amazing. But if you can’t get hold of proper Italian sausages then use a good quality pork or beef sausage.

The tomato sauce for this dish is made a little more decadent with the addition of some cream at the end. Think cream of tomato soup (which my husband loves out of the tin) but better.

An excellent dish.

 

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Tomato Cream Sauce

Serves 4

 

Tomato Cream Sauce

25g unsalted butter

Dash of olive oil

1 onion

2 fat cloves garlic

2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary (depending on their size)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

700g bottle tomato passata

250ml water

Salt and pepper

60ml cream

 

6 Italian sausages

375g spaghetti

Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped

Grated pecorino cheese (or parmesan)

 

Peel the onion and garlic cloves and roughly chop them. Pop into the bowl of a food processor with the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and oregano. Blitz until you have a fine oniony pulp.

Heat a large pan and add the butter with a dash of olive oil. Once the butter has melted and is just starting to sizzle add the onion pulp and sauté until soft and the liquid from the onions has evaporated. This should only take a few minutes.

Add the bottle of passata and the water and stir well. Season with salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Bring to a good simmer and leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes. By this time it should have reduced a little and thickened. Taste and check the seasoning.

Lower the heat, add the cream and stir through.

While the tomato sauce is cooking you can get on with the sausages and spaghetti. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and heat a pan for the sausages. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions.

Run the tip of a sharp knife along the side of the sausage to tear the skin and remove the skin. Once the pan is hot enough add a dash of olive oil and then the sausages. As they start to sizzle begin to break them up using a wooden spoon. The pieces of sausage absolutely don’t need to be uniform shapes, simply a similar size although it really doesn’t matter if some are slightly larger than others. Just don’t break them up into too small pieces. Fry the sausages meatballs, turning when necessary, until they're golden brown and cooked through.

Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain it in a colander and return to the pan. Now add the sausage and the oil from the pan and toss through the spaghetti. I also like to grind over a little pepper at this stage too.

Stir the basil (leave a little for garnish) through the tomato cream sauce and then start spooning it over the spaghetti. I use a ladle and this is important – add a few ladlefuls of sauce and then toss it through the spaghetti before you start adding more. You may not need all the sauce – what you want is for the spaghetti to have a good coating but you don’t want it drowning.

If you have any sauce leftover pop it into a container and keep it in the fridge – you’ll find plenty of uses for it. It also freezes well so make a double batch and then you’ve always got a meal ready to go.

Serve the spaghetti in pasta bowls and sprinkle over the reserved basil and the grated pecorino.

Take it to the table, close your eyes on the first mouthful and imagine you’re in Italy.

Buon Appetito!

Published by Tracey O'Brien