Monday, October 18, 2010

Slutty Ragù.

Slutty ragu. © Ryan Schierling
The intersection of a food craving and what is available in the fridge can occasionally make for an inspired dish. I wanted pasta, but was not in the mood for the usual flavors of basil and garlic. What we had on hand was a stack of red bell peppers and a roll of Gimme Lean sausage in the fridge. The "lightbulb" was to make an ALL RED pepper-heavy pasta sauce with some heat and savory meatiness. 

As obsessed as I am with herbs, there wasn't the even the slightest temptation to clutter up these flavors with anything green. For heat, I was thinking some fresh red jalapeños would be a great addition, but since we already had a 100% red jalapeño sauce/salsa, I would use that as my hotter red pepper. The beautiful Greek sheep's milk feta in the fridge would provide a cool contrast and tang. It all turned out to be as delicious and satisfying as envisioned. 

So, what to call a dish you plan to make repeatedly, that you want to refer to again and again with a knowing nod? You'll remember, of course, that puttanesca is derived from the word for "whore" (or puttana) in Italian. Well, it fits... puttanesca sauce separates itself from simple marinara and its hearty meat-based cousin, ragù, by being a temptress of peppers, capers, olives and anchovies. It is a hot and spicy, thick and hearty sauce that earns the name. 

Well, this is not a puttanesca recipe, let me be clear. It is best defined as a type of ragù. But with all the peppers in there, and that kick of jalapeño heat... well, it is definitely a little slutty. 

Slutty meez. © Ryan Schierling
Slutty Ragù 

Serves 4 

1 Gimme Lean Sausage roll
3 fresh red bell peppers, finely chopped
1/2 lg. sweet onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and rough chopped
1 T. "Texas Wild" Roja/Red Jalapeño Hot Salsa
1 28 oz. can CENTO crushed tomatoes
black pepper
kosher salt
16 oz. thin spaghetti
fresh feta cheese, crumbled 

In a 2 quart stainless sauce pan, break apart the Gimme Lean Sausage and saute in olive oil until it's cooked and no longer sticky. There will be a some crispy bits and good fond will have formed on the bottom of the pan. Empty the sausage into a separate bowl and set aside. 

Into the same sauce pan (fond and all!) add the chopped red peppers and begin to cook down. As they release moisture, the fond will soften and incorporate its flavor into the sauce. Add the chopped onion and garlic once the peppers begin to soften. When this mixture is starting to really look cooked down into a nice bubbling jam, add some salt and the Texas Wild Roja. (In lieu of this sauce, I would try cooking one or two whole red jalapeños - finely chopped and with seeds - in with the pepper mixture.) 

Add the can of crushed tomatoes and the sausage to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add few good pinches of salt, seasoning to taste, and a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper. 

This can simmer for a while to blend flavors, or at least as long as it takes to get the water boiling and the pasta cooked. 

Serve over thin spaghetti with crumbled fresh feta cheese. I'll leave the choice of bread up to you, but a nice sourdough with butter is highly recommended. This is one of those meals where you break off a chunk of bread and use it to clean the extra sauce off your plate.

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