Rigatoni, Quick & Dirty
Home after an aggravating, post-Christmas day, one that resembled nothing of the blissful days of books and naps I’ve been envisioning since the end of the semester. It doesn’t matter what it was: Long lines at the grocery store, a sick aging parent and a too long wait at the doctor, a 3 hour job that took all day, the recent cold snap that has the temperature hovering at 15 degrees—it was just one of those days.
What’s a girl to do? Uncork the leftover David Bruce Christmas Pinot Noir and start a pound of hot and spicy Italian sausage frying in a dutch oven with garlic, bay leaf, and red onion drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and cracked pepper before the groceries are even unloaded from the truck outside. Alternating between store bags and my cutting board, I have the sauce simmering by the time I’ve put everything away. It’s quick and easy and a little dirty, and tastes kicky not to mention a little naughty (since I avoid gluten most days). Just what I needed on a cold night, after a forgettable day, when I’ve got the post-holiday blues: food that warms the body and soothes every savage thought I've had in the last six hours.
I know my New York Italian friends (all from the south of the boot) will tell you meat sauce must cook and cook. Don’t be fooled. I made my sauce in less than 30 minutes and it was full of robust meaty flavors. I’d put it head to head with ragu cooked for hours any day.
Once the sausage is cooked, I add two large cans of Italian plum tomatoes and crush the plump bodies of fruit between my fingers—always satisfying. Then in goes a cup of red wine, about a ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, a can of tomato paste, maybe a ¼ tsp of flaked red pepper, a ¼ cup fresh chopped basil and a ½ cup fresh chopped parsley. I boil water for rigatoni while the flavors of the sauce mix over medium heat.
The pasta is spicy and makes the so-cold-I-can-see-it air outside somehow a bit more bearable. For an added treat, I make my mom’s trashy garlic bread: Garlic bread slathered with Parmesan mixed with mayo and broiled under the broiler.
A little more wine, some chocolate, and it’s a perfect night after all.