Yesterday I took my kids for the afternoon in Schenectady, NY. We stopped for lunch at a great old time coal fired bakery called Perreca's. Schenectady is great for its authentic Italian American establishments, relics of a bygone era that has died out in so many places. Bakery's, sausage makers like Sindoni and Garofalo, cheese makers like Cappiello, cafes and small eateries. If you haven't been, check it out.
After lunch we went into the shop
and bought a loaf of bread and some sweet sausage. For dinner I whipped up a classic of Italian American cooking, some sausage, peppers, onions and sphaghetti. Here is a quick and easy recipe for a classic, delicious meal.
Started with two pounds rope sausage. Cut the continuous rope into short links. Saute the sausage gently over medium high heat in a couple swirls of good olive oil. When lightly browned flip the sausage and allow to brown on the other side. This should take about 5 minutes on each side.
While the sausage is browning, slice a medium onion, a couple cloves of garlic, a small red bell pepper (I didn't have one this time,) and two hot cherry peppers. Open a 28 oz can of peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano Tomatoes or any imported Italian peeled plum tomatoes, and grab your dry oregano out of your pantry.
If you like the spice and flavor of hot cherry peppers you should keep them in your refrigerator at all times. they are a great addition to sauces, greens, sauteed meats, or an antipasto platter. Whole Peeled plum tomatoes are also a necessity in my cupboard. By them whole and not crushed, trust me. Dry oregano is a great herb to have around for Italian cooking. Unlike dry basil or dry parsley, which have no culinary use as far as I am concerned, oregano actually evolves in flavor and aroma when dried. Fresh oregano is perfect but not always available, especially when cooking a quick dinner for the family after a long day.
When the sausage is sufficiently browned add the sliced vegetables, salt and black pepper to taste, and a few pinches of dry oregano. Push the onions and garlic and peppers into the hot oil between the sausage so that everything can cook nicely. After about 5 more minutes, everything is nice and caramelized and smells fantastic.
At this point add the whole can of tomatoes and stir until everything is nicely blended and the tomatoes have broken down into a nice thick sauce. Add a bay leaf or two if you have them, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and slightly cover the pan so that some steam can escape. After About 15 minutes shut off the heat and leave covered until ready to use.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the amount of pasta you wish to cook. This recipe given here is enough sauce for about a pound of pasta. I like spaghetti for this but penne rigate or rigatoni would be great. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions draining the pasta about a minute before perfect al dente. Allow the pasta to cook gently in the sauce for a couple minutes until the pasta is perfectly al dente and has absorbed and thickened the sauce nicely. Serve the pasta family style in a large heated platter and sprinkle liberally with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
This preparation is also great so serve without pasta as a main course with some sauteed escarole or broccoli rabe. You could also stuff some sausage and a few spoonfuls of sauce into a nice crusty loaf of Italian bread, cover with some grated Pecorino Romano and Mozzarella cheese and bake in a heated oven till melted and browned.