Partially inspired by an old Saveur recipe.

Patricia Wells’s recipe for Penne ‘Risotto’ taught me how to make a rich pasta sauce with little effort by treating the dried pasta like arborio rice. It’s a trick well worth adding to your bag of techniques. Last night, I surveyed the contents of my fridge: half a duck-and-cherry sausage, some homemade chicken broth, and carrots. I put them all together as if I were making risotto.

Et voilà…

around 2 cups chicken broth (you may have some left over)

a little bit of olive oil or a teaspoon or two of duck fat

2 1/2 – 3 oz duck sausage (failing that, use Italian sausage), casing removed

1/2 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

3 1/2 oz gemelli pasta

kosher salt

Parmesano reggiano, grated

Warm a pasta bowl in the oven while you prepare the pasta. Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the oil or fat in a small or medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, one in which you might make a small amount of risotto. When the oil is hot, break up the sausage as you put the pieces in the fat. Sauté until it starts to brown. Add the onion and stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom. If you see there is more than a tablespoon or so fat, pour off excess fat and return to the burner. Add the uncooked pasta and the diced carrots, stirring to coat them in the fat. Sauté until the color of the pasta has deepened as if it has been toasted, 3-4 minutes over a medium-low flame.

When the pasta has thoroughly absorbed the fat, pour in a half cup of the broth, reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir occasionally until the liquid has mostly evaoporated. Think of each additional half cup of broth as adding a layer of flavor. Wwait until each  layer has been absorbed into the pasta before adding more broth. You will probably add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of broth, depending on how quickly the broth evaporates. It will take a bit longer for the pasta to soften than it would if you were boiling it furiously in water. Cook until the sauce is reduced to the consistency you prefer.

When the pasta is nearly ready — firm to the bite, without crunch — add salt and pepper. If you need more moisture, add broth very sparingly. Take your warmed pasta bowl out of the oven and tip the pasta into it. Grate the parmesan and go eat.

Next time:

  • I’ll try it with Italian sausage.
  • I’ll pour in some white wine when I’ve added the pasta and carrots, although it’s liable to slow down the cooking process, but that’s ok. The additional flavor would be worth it.
  • And chopped parsley.
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