The combination of sausage and pasta is one I deal with probably once a month. This might be because I am a greedy fatty who doesn't consider it a meal if an animal hasn't perished in the process, or it might just be because there is something utterly sublime about the way pork mince hugs a pasta noodle like an over-affectionate aunt, or nestles inside a tube of penne, generously offering itself as a little self-made pig in blanket (or perhaps just hiding from my hungry gaze). There is just something so perfect, so comforting about sausage pasta, in any shape or form.
A traditional beef ragu often contains minced pork anyway, a real treat in itself and adding a lot of interest to a standard Bolognese sauce (try it next time you knock up a spag bol) but it is often lean and therefore tends to dry out a little when cooked on its own. The beauty of sausage is that it is a mixture of both meat and fat (hence the bingo wings on many a full English-noshing lorry driver) and so doesn't have the same inclination to dry out.
One of my favourite versions of the sausage pasta is a Nigel Slater concoction, whereby you sweat a chopped onion, add your sausage meat, some white wine, grainy mustard and cream and simmer for 10 minutes or so before stirring in lots of fresh chopped parsley. It's almost unbeatable, and very quick.
This recipe requires little more of your own time, just some more cooking time.
Sausage ragu with penne
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 stick of celery, diced
a handful finely chopped parsley
a sprig of rosemary, leaves pulled off and finely chopped
6-8 plump sausages
150 ml red wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Some freshly grated Parmesan
Heat a little oil over a low heat and add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Season and cover. Cook for 30 minutes over the lowest heat you can muster, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, slit the skin of the sausages and remove the meat, discarding the suspicious looking membrane. When the vegetables (the soffritto it is known as in Italy - that's one to impress the ladies, ahem) are completely softened increase the heat and stir in the herbs. Stir for a couple of minutes before adding the sausage meat. Crush with a fork and stir for a further 5 minutes until the meat is completely broken up. Add the wine and simmer for a couple more minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in 400g penne that you have cooked according to pack instructions, and serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan and a little more chopped parsley.