Pasta with fresh tomato cream and sausage

Image shows a large bowl of casarecce pasta with a tomato cream and sausage sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan, and steam coming off the top

Fresh tomatoes are incredibly versatile and it is so quick and easy to make tasty pasta sauces with them, it’s hardly worth buying any tinned varieties (though they have their place in every kitchen, of course, and are a very cost-effective way to make pasta sauces). Although I call the sauce a ‘tomato cream’ – crema di pomodoro, there is no cream in this recipe. The creaminess comes entirely from the tomatoes and the cooking method (‘risottare‘ – see below).

For this recipe, I used Italian fennel sausage, which I think works best. If you can’t get any, try to get a high meat and high fat content sausage that has nice and chunky meat and fat, rather than very finely-ground meat and fat. Or you could make your own sausage meat – see my recipe here. I usually buy mine either online from Nifeislife, or in person from The Leeds Deli, when they have some in stock. Having a good, tasty sausage meat will make a big difference to this sauce.

For the pasta, I used casarecce this time, but any good durum wheat pasta with a bit of a hollow to ‘grab’ the sauce, or a nice rough surface for the same reason (fresh tagliatelle would work well, or pappardelle, if you like long pasta; other short pasta varieties such as orecchiette, conchiglie, mafalde corte etc would also work).

This recipe is quick and easy to make and only takes about as long as it takes to bring the pasta water to the boil and cook the pasta. The pasta will be partially cooked in boiling water, then finished off in the sauce, using the method known as ‘risottare‘ (imagine risotto being turned into a verb, i.e. ‘to risotto’, or ‘to cook risotto-style’). It is this cooking method that makes the sauce so deliciously rich and creamy!

Let me know what you think of this once you’ve tried it, and feel free to share your photos, too!

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  • 4 chunky Italian fennel sausages (see comments above re where to get them)
  • Approx. 600g baby plum tomatoes
  • Fine sea salt (to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (a good splash – on an Italian recipe blog, you would see ‘q.b.’, which means ‘quanto basta’, i.e. as much as needed)
  • A sprinkling of freshly-grated parmesan cheese
  • Enough pasta to feed 4 people (about 500g is usually ample, especially as this is a very filling sauce with the sausage meat added). If you’re doing this as a traditional ‘primo piatto’ to be followed by a meat dish, roughly halve the quantities.
  • Coarse sea salt for the pasta water

Method:

Put a large pan of water on the hob to bring it to the boil.

While the water comes to the boil, halve the tomatoes lengthways and place them into a medium-hot large frying pan or sauté pan with a good splash of olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and cook them until they can easily be squished with the back of a spoon (this only takes a few minutes), stirring frequently.

Remove the tomatoes from the pan and let them cool for a couple of minutes. While they are cooling, skin the sausages and break the sausage meat into small chunks, then brown them in the same pan you fried off the tomatoes in.

Meanwhile, if the pasta water has come to the boil, add a generous handful of coarse sea salt to the water, then drop in your pasta. You only wnat to cook the pasta about halfway to its proper al dente eating consistency, so look at the pack instructions: For the casarecce I used, the pack recommended 8-10 minutes (8 for al dente), so I cooked it in the water for 4 minutes before proceeding to the next stage.

While the pasta is cooking and the sauisage meat is browning, blitz the tomatoes to a smooth consistency using a high-powered food blender. I use the Ninja Foodi Power Nutri Blender, but any blender of that ilk will work. If your blender is not as powerful, you may end up with bits of tomato skin that you’ll need to sieve before using the tomato cream. A powerful blender will also give the tomatoes their lovely pale and creamy consistency.

Add the tomato cream to the sausage meat in the pan and ‘rinse out’ the blender with some of the pasta cooking water, which you will then also add to the tomato cream and sausage meat in the frying pan. Stir the sauce and keep it gently simmering, to avoid it evaporating too much before the pasta goes in.

As soon as the pasta is cooked about half-way (it doesn’t have to be exact – a shorter time in the water will simply mean a longer time cooking in the sauce), scoop it out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop it straight into the pan with the sauce. It’s ok if some water comes with it. You will need the water to help it cook. Stir it through and turn up the heat under the frying pan so the pasta and sauce bubble away nicely to help the pasta cook. Keep the pasta cooking water, as you will need to ladle a bit in at a time to keep the pasta cooking – like making a risotto (except you would use stock for a risotto).

Cook the pasta in this way, stirring regularly to make sure it cooks evenly and absorbs the flavours well, adding a bit of the starchy cooking water as needed, from time to time. Don’t add too much water at once, as you need to be left with a rich, creamy sauce at the end, without having the pasta drowning in sauce!

The pasta will be cooked when it is a nice al dente consistency and you have a rich, creamy sauce – the starch from the pasta helps make it lovely and thick & creamy! 🙂

Take the pan off the heat and stir through a little bit of finely-grated parmesan, then serve immediately! Each person may wish to add a little more parmesan over the top, to taste.

Image shows a large bowl of casarecce pasta with a tomato cream and sausage sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan, and steam coming off the top
Casarecce with fresh tomato cream and Italian fennel sausage

Pasta with tomato cream and sausage – Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Quick custard doughnut (cheat) | Custard Donut | Ciambella rapida alla crema pasticcera

Photo of a 'cheat' custard doughnut made with white bread slices, filled with thick custard, egged, fried in butter and dusted with sugar.  Image also shows Gloriously Good Food Logo.

This is a very quick ‘cheat’ recipe for a custard “doughnut” (or French Toast extraordinaire!) I came up with as I had made too much very thick crema pasticcera (an egg custard used in Italian desserts, so generally much thicker than traditional English custard that is used for pouring) for another meal, which I hope to post about soon!

I had made the crema pasticcera very thick and left it to set in the fridge overnight, so you could ‘cut’ into it with a spoon or spreading knife, which makes it ideal for this particular recipe, as there is no risk of it oozing out as you cook your “doughnut”.

Tip: As an extra treat, I had actually mixed a load of white chocolate drops into the crema pasticcera while it was still hot, so it became a delicious, rich, chocolatey custard! As an alternative, this cheat “doughnut” also works very well with Nutella filling 🙂

This simple and quick cheat recipe takes about 5 minutes to make (once you have the custard – I’ll post a recipe soon, but any egg custard, made extra thick and left to set in the fridge overnight should work).

Tip: Use very fresh sliced white bread with a compact crumb. For a fluffier “doughnut”, use thick or extra thick slices.

Video recipe from my Instagram Reels (scroll down for written recipe):

Ingredients (for one “doughnut”):

  • 2 slices white bread
  • 1 medium egg
  • 2-3 heaped teaspoons of thick set custard
  • a generous knob of butter for frying
  • caster sugar in a bowl to dust the “doughnut” once cooked

Method:

Cut the two slices of bread into two identical circles with a large cookie cutter (don’t throw away the off-cuts, dip them into the egg after you have finished making the “doughnut”, fry them in the butter and dust them in caster sugar – they will make delicious French Toast bites!).

Spread a generous amount of the crema pasticcera / thick set custard into the centre of one of the slices, cover with the second slice and squeeze the edges together with your fingers.

Dip into a lightly beaten egg and place into a non-stick pan with a generous knob of lightly sizzling butter (medium heat). Cook both sides until the egg has lightly browned, drain on a piece of kitchen paper and immediately dip into a a bowl of caster sugar, making sure both sides and all edges are coated in sugar.

Serve and eat immediately while it’s still warm 🙂

A 'cheat' custard doughnut made with slices of white bread, thick set custard and caster sugar. Image shows the doughnut as it has been cut in half. Image also shows Gloriously Good Food Logo.

Quick custard doughnut (cheat) | Custard Donut | Ciambella rapida alla crema pasticcera |

Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Crostata di sbriciolata | Crumble pie

Crumble pie with thick custard filling, shown as a whole pie with one slice cut out of it and slightly pulled away from the rest of the pie.

Crostata di sbriciolata alla crema pasticcera | Custard-filled crumble pie

This is an Italian recipe by Luisa Orizio (Facebook, Instagram), posted on the Giallo Zafferano Blog. I made this today as I had friends coming over and fancied something quick and easy to make for dessert that I could do with ingredients I already had in the house.

It was an absolute hit – nearly the whole lot went (and that was after we’d eaten pizza!), and I was asked to translate the recipe so they could replicate it at home!

Sbriciolata is a effectively a crumble, though the way this was done, the crumble was made with the same dough as the base, then crumbled over the top by hand, rather than an English crumble-making method. A crostata is a pie / tart. Crema pasticcera is a thick egg custard (flour is used to make it thicker than English custard) and is used as a filling in Italian pastries and cakes, and as a dessert in its own right. So, this is a pie / tart, filled with delicious thick custard and topped with a crispy crumble topping. It is simple to make and incredibly delicious! Yum 🙂

Tip: According to the original recipe post, this pie can be kept in the fridge for two days (if it lasts that long!) and can be frozen.

crostata di sbriciolata alla crema pasticcera | crumble pie with thick custard filling. Image shows the pie in its baking tin.

Ingredients (for a 22cm pie tin)

For the pastry:

  • 300g plain white flour
  • 150g butter, left to soften at room temperature (I like to use salted butter as I feel it gives the pastry more depth of flavour, but you can use unsalted, if you prefer)
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 yolk from a large egg
  • 1tsp baking powder

For the crema pasticcera (thick custard):

  • 500ml milk (the original recipe calls for 300ml milk and 200ml single cream, but advises you can use just milk and cook it for longer to allow it to thicken…I actually added a little bit of cornflour to the plain flour provided for in the recipe – see below)
  • 3 yolks from large eggs
  • 140g sugar
  • 40g plain white flour
  • 10g cornflour (my addition – see above)
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract (this was my addition to the recipe; alternatively, you can infuse the milk with pieces of lemon or organge zest, to have a traditional italian crema pasticcera flavour)

Method

Start by making the pastry:

In a bowl, combine the softened butter and sugar, using a spoon. You don’t need to beat it for any length of time, just mix it well to create a sugary/buttery paste.

Add the egg yolk and mix until combined.

Add the flour and baking powder a little at a time, first mixing with a spoon, then as it gets thicker and drier, using your hands, until you have a smooth dough.

Form a dough ball, wrap it in clingfilm and rest it in the fridge while you prepare the crema pasticcera (custard).

Now prepare the custard:

Put the milk and vanilla essence in a saucepan over a low-medium heat.

While the milk is heating, beat (not whisk) together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, then add the flour and cornflour and mix well until you have a smooth paste, ensuring there are no lumps.

Once the milk is hot (not boiling), place the thick egg, sugar, flour and cornflour paste into the centre of the bowl containing the hot milk and leave it to cook over a low heat for 2-3 minutes without stirring, until you see some bubbles forming – a bit like little erupting volcanoes.

Tip: I must admit, this step was a bit of a leap of faith for me! I expected to find a congealed, burnt, solid lump at the bottom of the pan! Instead, I found that the milk started visibly thickening before the little volcanoes appeared, and although it took about 3-4 minutes rather than the 2 minutes in the original recipe, sure enough the little volcanoes did start appearing!

As soon as you see the little volcanic eruptions appearing, begin stirring rapidly with a hand whisk and keep stirring for a few minutes, until the custard is thick. Take the pan off the heat and let the custard cool a little while you start preparing the pie base.

Tip: I kept stirring the custard with the whisk from time to time, to help it cool faster and prevent a skin forming.

Time to assemble the pie:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan).

Place 2/3rds of the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof paper (this will prevent it from sticking to the worktop / surface, and make it easier to lift the pastry into the pie tin) and roll it out, using a rolling pin, until it is large enough to cover the base and sides of the tin.

Place the rolled out pastry into your pie tin (one with a removable bottom is preferable) and gently prick the base with a fork all over. If bits of pastry fall off, you can simply press them into the sides / base where they are needed, to plug any gaps.

Pour in the slightly cooled custard and level it with a spatula.

Roughly crumble the remaining pastry over the top of the custard.

Place in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Let the pie completely cool (ideally to fridge temperature) before cutting it.

Serve and enjoy!

Crumble pie with thick custard filling, shown as a whole pie with one slice cut out of it and slightly pulled away from the rest of the pie.
Side view of half a sliced thick custard pie with a crumble topping.

Custard-filled crumble pie | Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!