Saturday, November 19, 2011

Italian Sausage Tomato Sauce

Ground beef has been the typical base ingredient when making a meat sauce, but if you change it up and replace the boring beef for Italian sausage, you will be pleasantly surprised as to how much flavor that small change can make.  Beautiful chunky tomato sauce gently flavored with tasty bits of sausage that tangle its way in to the sauce making it easy to stick to the pasta, allowing all the flavors to come together in just one bite.  It only takes a few ingredients to make this tomato sauce and if there are any leftovers, it will freeze well.
Remember, all Italian sausages are not created equal, so take the time to find your favorite and it will soon become your best “go-to” ingredient when adding flavor to your next plate of spaghetti, lasagna, soup, meatballs or stuffed mushrooms.

My favorite brand that I can find locally is New York Style Sausage Company which is made in California.  Their pre-seasoned sausage is so flavorful that very little extra seasoning is necessary.  The best part is that it is available in various levels of spiciness.  My family’s palates are divided between extremely spicy and mild, so I split the difference and use half mild and half spicy.

I need to emphasize how different canned tomatoes are.  Because a bad can of tomatoes will ruin your sauce without any way to fix it.  A good quality canned tomato is naturally sweet without a trace of acidity and or tininess that makes your palate feel like it is tasting a fresh tomato.

When I was in Italy I opened a can of tomatoes that I was planning to cook with and tasted them.  The next thing I knew, I had eaten about half the can, uttering with each bite as to how clean, fresh and naturally sweet they were.  It was a crazy life changing experience (at least in the tomato department).  From that day on, I became very picky about my canned tomatoes.  On that same trip, I filled a whole suit case with an assortment of tomatoes to bring home with me.  It was quite heavy, but worth it.  Like I said about the sausage, not all San Marzano tomatoes are created equal.  So, take the time to find your favorite.  Because there are so few ingredients in this sauce it is very important to use the very best ingredients that you can find, without breaking the bank.  It will be worth the effort.

I used one can of crushed and one can of diced tomatoes, because that’s what I had.  But any type of good quality tomatoes will work.  If you use whole tomatoes, crush them with your hands or a potato masher to break them into smaller pieces. 

ITALIAN SAUSAGE TOMATO SAUCE

½             pound                   Italian sausage, mild/sweet
½             pound                   Italian sausage, hot
2              cloves                   garlic, minced
1              small                      onion, chopped
½             med                       carrot, grated (or ½ tsp. sugar)
2              Tbsp.                     tomato paste
1              28 oz. can            San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1              28 oz. can            San Marzano tomatoes, whole or diced
1              cup                         water
1              tsp.                        dried basil
1              tsp.                        dried oregano
½             tsp.                        kosher salt
¼             tsp.                        black pepper

Place heavy bottom pot over med-high heat.  Add 1 Tbsp. oil to the pot and brown sausage.   When the sausage is browned add garlic, onions and carrots.  Stir to mix and lower heat; cook covered for about 5 minutes or until the onions are very soft.  Clear a spot in the middle of the pot and add tomato paste and let cook for about a minute.  Stir to mix with the meat; add the tomatoes, water, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Stir to mix and let simmer covered for 30 minutes.

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