We were fortunate to have a guest over for dinner the other night. Our neighbor and dear friend, Jackson was out of town for the week and his brother, Jay, had driven down from Jacksonville to look after the family pet boxer, Clifford. Having met Jay only once before, Steve and I thought it would be nice to have him over to Chez Miskew for some good ol' "Savor the Moment" hospitality. Happily, he accepted our offer!
As a gal with two big, strapping guys to feed, I thought I should go with something on the heartier side. Pasta sounded like the perfect choice so I opted for the Tomato Sausage Penne (pg. 198) with Italian sausage, tomatoes, fresh basil and an ample dose of Parmesan cheese. The recipe calls for sweet Italian sausage, but I used half sweet and half hot (I like to spice it up a bit!) Also, I could not find stewed, chopped tomatoes so I used regular, canned diced tomatoes. Since stewed tomatoes have been previously cooked, usually with some herbs and spices, I increased the cooking time to give the sauce a chance to reduce a bit to thicken the consistency and improve the flavor. Luckily, this worked out just fine!
And what better to go with our dish than a Italian red wine? We opened a 2007 Aia Vecchia Lagone, a proprietary blend of 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc from Tuscany. Due to the nature of the blend, this wine falls under the "Super Tuscan" category, a term reserved for wines which are made incorporating international grape varietals that do not conform to the strict wine laws of the region. At under $20 a bottle, this is a Super Tuscan at a super price! This full-bodied red has flavors of plums, black cherry and spice with firm, leathery tannins. Although it went well with the Tomato Sausage Penne, it could definitely benefit from a few more years in the bottle.
It appeared I had two happy boys on my hands and I have to say, this dish is really tasty! Perfect for a dinner party or if you're having house guests, since it is just as delicious the next day. I've included the recipe here for you to enjoy with your fabulous dinner guests or family. Let me know what you think - cheers!
Tomato Sausage Penne
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
9 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 lbs. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cups dry white wine
3 (28-ounce) cans stewed chopped Italian tomatoes
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
oregano to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 (16-ounce) packages penne
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Saute the onions and garlic in the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until tender and golden brown. Add the sausage and cook until brown, stirring to crumble; drain.
Add the wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the undrained tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cream. Simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in the basil, oregano and red pepper.
Cook the pasta al dente using the package directions; drain. Add to the sauce with the cheese; toss to mix well. Serve with additional cheese. Serves six to eight.