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!

Vegetarian Sausage | 3 bean, lentil & mushroom sausage

This vegetarian sausage is really quick and easy to make

I’ve recently started  making a lot of different sausages and when my vegetarian friends asked me to come up with some vegetarian sausage recipes, I decided to take up the challenge!

My first one was the sweet potato, caramelised onion and sundried tomato sausage with a chilli kick, but I also really fancied doing something with beans and lentils as they are so tasty, nutritious and versatile.

Note: These vegetarian sausages can also be made into vegetarian burgers / patties without the vegetarian sausage casings.  Simply shape into a burger / patty and fry with a little oil in a non-stick pan.

Vegetarian Sausage | 3 bean lentil mushroom sausage
Vegetarian sausage in vegetarian / vegan sausage casings, ready to ‘cook’

 

Ingredients for 8 vegetarian sausages (these quantities will make 7-8 vegetarian sausages, plus whatever is left in the sausage-making funnel/mechanism)

  • 250g closed cup chestnut mushrooms, cleaned, finely sliced and then coarsely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 50g lightly salted butter
  • 115g tinned butter beans in water, drained (typically from a 250g – undrained weight – tin)
  • 115g tinned cannellini beans in water, drained
  • 115g tinned kidney beans in water, drained
  • 115g ready-to-eat Puy Lentils (I use Merchant Gourmet ones)
  • fine sea salt (to taste)
  • Vegetarian / Vegan Sausage casings (I found these online – available from various retailers)

Method

vegetarian sausages
finely sliced then roughly chopped closed cup chestnut mushrooms in the pan with butter and garlic

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan

Gently fry the garlic on a low heat (do not let it brown, merely soften a little and infuse the butter with garlic flavour)

Add the mushrooms, season lightly with a little sea salt, turn up the heat and cook on a high heat until they are cooked and some of the juices have reduced down – but do retain a little bit of liquid

Meanwhile, ‘blitz’ the butter beans, cannelini beans and kidney beans in a food processor but only very briefly, so as to retain some chunky texture

Add the Puy lentils to the bean mixture and mix by hand

Add the fried mushrooms

If the mixture is a little dry, add a bit of melted butter

Season with sea salt (to taste)

vegetarian sausage mixture
vegetarian sausage mixture ready to go into vegetarian / vegan sausage casings

Push the mixture into the vegetarian sausage casings using a sausage-making machine/funnel (note that when you twist the ends, unlike with natural casings, they won’t remain properly twisted…leave enough room at the end to allow for a bit of expansion of the contents during cooking and prevent all the filling from escaping from the ends)

Grill or fry (careful if you BBQ – the vegetarian sausage casings have a tendency to tear open / explode on the high heat!) and serve with accompaniments of your choice

Vegetarian Sausage – Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Vegetarian Sausage | Sweet potato, caramelised onion & sundried tomato sausages

Delicious vegetarian sausage:

sweet potato, caramelised onion & sundried tomato with a chilli kick!

As I recently embarked on a sausage-making spree, my vegetarian friends asked me if I’d make some vegetarian sausages for them.  I love cooking and I’m always up for a culinary challenge, so I came up with not one, but two vegetarian sausage recipes:

Sweet potato, caramelised onion & sundried tomato AND

3 bean, lentil & mushroom (recipe coming soon)

I’m actually delighted with the results – though a word of warning: the vegetarian / vegan sausage casings are ok and easy enough to use, but although they cooked fine under the grill, they exploded somewhat on the BBQ.  They’re quite delicate in the cooking process!

Note: These vegetarian sausages can also be made into vegetarian burgers / patties without the vegetarian sausage casings.  Simply shape into a burger / patty and fry with a little oil in a non-stick pan.

Vegetarian Sausage | Sweet potato caramelised onion sundried tomato with chilli
In their casings, ready to ‘cook’

Ingredients for 8 vegetarian sausages (makes approx. 8 sausages plus what’s invariably left in the sausage-filling funnel & mechanism)

  • 2 sweet potatoes – approx. 340680g , prepared as described below
  • 4 fresh red chilli peppers, de-seeded & finely chopped
  • 60g sundried tomatoes in oil, loosely drained, roughly chopped
  • 2 large onions, prepared as described below
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 4tsp light brown soft sugar
  • salt (to taste)
  • Vegetarian / Vegan Sausage casings (I found these online – available from various retailers)

Method

Prepare the sweet potato:

roast sweet potato
Sweet Potato cubes ready for roasting

  • Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into squares (approx. 2cm squared)
  • Drizzle on a little olive oil and sprinkle on some fine/ground sea salt
  • Place onto a non-stick baking tray in a pre-heated fan-assisted oven at 200°C and cook for approx. 20 mins until soft and slightly caramelised but not too much – you want them sweet, not bitter (higher temp or cook for longer if your oven isn’t fan-assisted).  I use Pampered Chef’s Rectangular Stone to bake the sweet potatoes on and this requires minimal use of oil.  Depending on what you use, you may have to adjust your oil quantities to avoid sticking.

Prepare the onion:

  • Peel the onions and cut it in half, then finely slice
  • Place 2 tbsp of olive oil (or use some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes) in a non-stick pan, pre-heat, then add the onions
  • Cook on a high heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until the onions are soft and browned and have become quite sweet
  • Add 2tsp of light brown soft sugar, stir in and quickly remove from the heat before the sugar burns

Remove the sweet potato cubes from the oven once they’re ready and mash them with a fork or potato masher, adding some of the oil from the tomatoes

Mix in the caramelised onions and wait until the sweet potato mash and caramelised onion mixture has cooled down to ambient temperature

Mix in the finely chopped chilli peppers and roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes

vegetarian sausage
Vegetarian Sausage mixture waiting to go into casings

Season to taste with a little fine sea salt

If the mixture is too dry, add a little oil from the sundried tomatoes

Push the mixture into the vegetarian sausage casings using a sausage-making machine/funnel (note that when you twist the ends, unlike with natural casings, they won’t remain properly twisted…leave enough room at the end to allow for a bit of expansion of the contents during cooking and prevent all the filling from escaping from the ends)

Grill or fry (careful if you BBQ – the vegetarian sausage casings have a tendency to tear open / explode on the high heat!) and serve with accompaniments of your choice

Vegetarian Sausage – Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!