Tag Archives: vinegar

Pasta, sausage, grapes & wine

4 Mar
I was a breath away from posting two vegetarian dishes in a row when out of nowhere appeared a bunch of really nice sweet Italian sausages. They came from a local butcher here in town, a gift from an acquaintance who on occasion swings by the house, well, unannounced.
This person’s timing is impeccable. Never does he/she arrive so close to dinner time that I cannot find a way to incorporate the item or items inside of the bag that arrives with them. Once it was an entire pork roast, another six different kinds of shellfish; on one particularly memorable occasion it was an 11-pound fresh turkey.
And so you could see why a mere couple pounds of sweet sausage didn’t rattle me. A day earlier I had decided to alter a recipe which (coincidentally) called for sausage as a main ingredient. The recipe, Strozzapreti with Sausage, Grapes and Red Wine, was from Carmellini’s “Urban Italian.” I didn’t have strozzapreti on hand but did have a really nice matriciani to use in its place. I was also about to substitute walnuts for the sausage (go ahead Kitty; you too Mavis and Little Glodes), but then of course my visitor showed up.
This recipe (reprinted in its entirety below) requires that you plan a day ahead, eight hours actually. The grapes need to be sliced and mixed with sugar, vinegar and wine.
Then they need to macerate overnight in the fridge.
Boil the mixture until the liquid reduces by around half. While this is happening you’re also sauteing the sausage meat in another pan, as well as boiling your pasta.
Add the grapes to the sausage.
And then add the pasta, mix thoroughly, and serve.
I still think the walnuts would be a nice substitution. Next time I won’t answer the doorbell. And hope my acquaintance just goes away.
Strozzapreti with Sausage, Grapes and Red Wine
Adapted from “Urban Italian,” by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half lengthwise
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 lb strozzapreti pasta (I used matriciani here)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage (about 4 links)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
10 sage leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1. Combine the grapes, wine, sugar, and vinegar in an airtight container and store in the fridge at least 8 hours.
2. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
3. In a medium saucepot, bring the grape mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 10 minutes, then remove from heat.
4. Cook the pasta until al dente.
5. Remove sausage meat from casings, heat olive oil in a pan and add the meat; cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the onion and continue cooking, stirring well, until sausage is well browned and onions have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sage leaves and stir to combine. 
7. Add the grape mixture and stir well.
8. Add the cooked pasta and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat, add the butter, cheese and black pepper, stirring well. Add the parsley and serve immediately, topped with additional cheese.

Garlic, vinegar, cheese, oh my!

24 May
I’m headed out for the first bike trip of the season. (In the rain, yeah. Don’t ask.)
While I’m out there dodging the raindrops and the text-while-you-drive idiots and the 80 mph trucks that forever conspire to ruin me, here is a dish you might find comforting in the days ahead.
It is one of my faves, this bowl of pasta. As soon as I laid eyes on the recipe, a dozen or so years ago now, I knew it was for me. The book in which it resides, Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s “The Splendid Table,” is worth having on the shelf. All the recipes are from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region and there isn’t a clunker in the lot. The pasta recipes alone, 56 in all, are worth the price of admission.
Anyhow, I need to get going. Have a good Memorial Day weekend. And be happy that you are in the comfort of your home, smelling the lovely garlic braising on the stovetop, instead of slogging through the slick New England highways and backroads with a meatball like me.
Pasta with Braised Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar
Recipe adapted from “The Splendid Table,” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
8 large cloves garlic, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 quarts salted water
1 pound pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
8 to 10 tsps artisan-made or high-quality commercial balsamic vinegar (if using commercial, blend in 1 teaspoon brown sugar) [NOTE: If you’re not willing to spend big bucks on super high quality balsamic, or take Kasper’s advice about the brown sugar, don’t bother making this. —MM] 
Working Ahead: The garlic can be braised up to 8 hours ahead. Set it aside, covered, at room temperature. The dish is best finished and eaten right away.
Braising the Garlic: In a large heavy skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook, covered, 5 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking over the lowest possible heat 8 minutes, or until the garlic is barely colored to pale blond and very tender. Stir it frequently with a wooden spatula. Do not let the garlic turn medium to dark brown, as it will be bitter.
Cooking the Pasta: Warm a serving bowl and shallow soup dishes in a low oven. As the garlic braises, bring the salted water to a fierce boil, and drop in the pasta. Stir occasionally. Cook only a few moments for fresh pasta, and up to 10 minutes for dried pasta. Taste for doneness, making sure the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the cooking water into the cooked garlic just before draining the pasta. Drain in a colander.
Finishing and Serving: Remove the garlic from the heat and add the hot drained pasta. Toss with two wooden spatulas. Season with salt and pepper. Now toss with all of the cheese. Turn into the heated serving bowl. As you serve the pasta, sprinkle each plateful with a teaspoon or two of the vinegar.