Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta

At one of my local farmers’ markets [actually the one that’s a bit more frou-frou than farmer] there is an occasional visitor, a South African sausage maker, who makes the most luscious Luganega sausages. Luganega and its seasonings, like most things Italian including the language, vary from region to region, from town to town, and it’s also known as salsiccia a metro as it is traditionally sold by the metre. This chap’s version is lightly spiced with chilli and bursting with fennelly flavour. I visit this particular market about every other week, and when my man is there he doesn’t always have the Luganega, so I probably get my hands on them once every eight weeks or so, by which time I’m always more than ready for another bowlful of this.

For two:

  • 3 Luganega [about 230g, or around 36cm if you’re buying in Italy!]
  • 300g fresh tomatoes
  • 170ml dry vermouth [perhaps here it should be Italian, but there’s normally French in my kitchen]
  • I medium onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 dried chilli, flaked
  • 1 star anise
  • 150ml single cream [or double if you prefer]
  • 200g pasta, penne work well here but I’ll use whatever’s in the cupboard
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve

Sautee the onion in a little olive oil until softened and add the flaked chilli and crushed garlic. You can vary the quantity of chilli and use or discard the seeds depending on your need for heat. Skin the sausages and crumble their contents into the pan, stirring and browning the meat. Roughly chop the tomatoes [slice cherry tomatoes in half] and add to the pan. This is a rustic affair so there’s no need to bother with skinning and seeding here. Sprinkle in a small pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper and add the vermouth. After a brief bubbling boil turn down to a low simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cream, check and adjust the seasoning. You will of course have set your pasta cooking at the appropriate point during this process so that by now it’s just al dente – as all brands vary I’m not going to attempt to give you more advice than you’ll find on the side of the packet. Use a little of the pasta water to thin the sauce if it seems too thick. For best results add your pasta to the sauce and give them a minute together in the pan on a low heat to get to know one another better before their dinner table debut, where you can make them feel welcome with a confetti of parmesan.

When I first made this there was another stall at the same market selling a wonderful fennel pesto, but they’ve since disappeared. If you can lay your hands on some add a couple of spoonfuls along with the tomatoes and maybe leave out the star anise.

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