If you know me well enough, you should know by now, I usually cook for a minimum of 4, (but living with three men) It’s like cooking for 6. Wait, that’s not all, on Thursday nights, my brother and parents come over for dinner, and I generally make a pasta dish which is always a good idea when feeding a crowd. It’s easy, filling and delicious. Today, I will share with you, My Rigatoni with Sweet Italian Sausage and Red Bell Peppers. I was inspired many years ago, when I had a similar dish at the Italian chain restaurant Carrabba’s. I recreated it and the result was delightful.
Serves: 8 – 10 Degree of difficulty: Medium. This recipe can easily be divided in half.
- 1.5 lb. Rigatoni or Ziti
- 1 container of chopped Tomato, Pomi or any brand 26.46 oz
- 2 containers of strained tomato, Pomi or any brand 26.46 oz
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp. olive oil for sauce, oil for frying the sausage, and more to drizzle
- 3 lbs. sweet Italian Sausage with fennel
- 1.5 red bell peppers cut in Julienne
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 16 oz shredded Mozzarella *
- 3/4 – 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh parsley for garnish
1) In a large pot, heat up some olive oil and brown sausage in batches, until they obtain a nice golden brown color. Do not attempt to taste them as the inside will still be raw. Cut each link into three or four pieces, and set aside.
2) In the meantime, over med-high heat, in the same pot, heat up olive oil, saute’ the onions until translucent, then add garlic, saute’ an extra minute. Add tomato paste, cook until it caremelizes into a nice brownish red color, stir occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot. If the heat is too high, adjust the setting. Next, add the water, the tomatoes, oregano, bell peppers, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the flame to low, and simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to 45 minutes. DO NOT OVER-COOK, as the peppers will fall apart.
3) On another burner, bring the pasta water to a boil, add salt and cook the pasta to the halfway point, as it will continue to cook in the oven.
4) Now, that you have prepped everything, it’s time to put it all together. In a very large, deep baking pan, drop the pasta, add the sausage, a few ladles of sauce with the peppers, the mozzarella and the parmesan cheese. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Mix well until all the pasta is nicely coated with the sauce. There may be some sauce left, save it, you may need it later. Bake covered with foil, in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until pasta is cooked. If you choose to, you can broil it uncovered for the last 5 minutes to get a nice crust. Serve it in a nice pasta bowl, and garnish with parsley! Voila!
* I like to use fresh mozzarella, and break it with my hands, but you can use whatever works for you. I also like to freshly grate the parmesan cheese.
Next time, you’re having a small gathering, I hope you will try this delicious meal. If you are pressed for time, you can prepare the sauce the day before, but be sure to warm it up on low flame before mixing it with the pasta. You may have to add some water to liquefy the sauce as it will thicken in the refrigerator.
I love the way the flavors work harmoniously in this scrumptious pasta dish. I suggest you pair it with any of these Italian reds, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Rosso di Montalcino, Sangiovese, or a Super Tuscan.
Buon Appetito! Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen to yours!