This could hands down be my favorite pasta dish. It is very easy to make and if you like pasta, you will love this, trust me. I think total time to make this, from preparation to finish is about 40 minutes. This will make about 3 good sized servings, or 2 servings if you have goat-boy Jon as a roommate. Jon is an eating machine. I was making this the other night and Kristen and he were mocking me because they read my entry the other day. They kept trying to distract me, but it really wasn't working because I wasn't under pressure. I think I just don't like it when people try to talk to me and i'm trying to concentrate - like if I have something on the stove and i'm trying to multi-task.
This dish is perfect for the normal Hobokenite who doesn't have a lot of time at night to cook, but wants something delicious for dinner. Of course you can throw in some of Nanny's meatballs along with this dish, too.
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 pound of sweet Italian sausage
1 cup of diced canned tomatoes
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 lb penne pasta
2 tbsp fresh basil
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Chop the onion, you only need a 1/2 cup which is about half the onion. Put the other half in a ziploc bag and save for another day.
2. Most packages of italian sausage are 6 links, that weigh 1lb. It usually take 3 links out to use, and ziploc the other 3. If you are feeding 2 roommates, like me, you can use 4 links. Take the sausage out of the package, and carefully slice the outer lining of the sausage and discard. Set the sausage aside.
3. Take the basil and wash it. Remove the leafs from the stems and you can tear it into small pieces or chop the basil into fine bits.
1. Put the tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet and heat it on medium. Add the onion, stirring every 30 seconds, for about 6 minutes. Careful with the heat, you don't want the onions black, just a nice golden brown.
2. Once that is done, add the sausage and turn up the heat a bit to medium-high. Take a wooden spoon and break up the sausage in the pan into small pieces while it cooks. This takes about 4-5 minutes for the sausage to cook through. Make sure the sausage is lightly browned, but not pink.
3. Stir in the tomatoes to the skillet and keep the heat the same level. It should bubble gently, add the salt and pepper to taste. Just remember that sausage is fairly salty, so I only use a pinch or two of salt and about 1/2 tablespoon of pepper.
4. You want the tomatoes to reduce, to get to the point where the tomatoes sauce thicken as the water evaporates. Don't worry, you really can't mess this up too badly. Just stir from time to time, give it a good 10 minutes and you should be fine. Once it is done, you can take it off the heat and set aside.
5. While your tomatoes are reducing, get your pasta ready by grabbing a pot, adding water and bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, add in a teaspoon of salt and all the pasta at once. Stir it a bit, to keep it from sticking from time to time. Don't overcook the pasta, you want it al dente - not soggy! Just read the instructions on the package, and if it says 10-13 minutes to cook - at the 10 minute mark take out one of the penne with a spoon, run it under cold water and taste. It should be firm to the taste, but not chewy. It takes some practice to get al dente down, but once you do, you will enjoy it!
6. When the pasta is almost done, add the skillet back to medium heat and stir in the ricotta cheese and basil. Your goal here is to mix throughly the cheese and basil, while heating the skillet. Should take about 2 minutes.
7. Take the pasta out of the pot and drain. Don't run cold water on the pasta, you want that starch!
8. Put the pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the skillet, and mix on medium-low heat for 1 minute.
9. Pour a glass of your favorite red wine (Grab a 2000 Rosenblum Zinfandel), serve immediately and enjoy!