Why This Recipe Works
Pasta with ragu is a classic Italian-American supper, but it typically calls for simmering several cuts of fatty meat for hours. We wanted a sauce that had all the heartiness and big flavor of the long-simmered version—but without all the fat or time spent on the stovetop. To streamline our shopping list, we scaled back to just one type of meat: hot Italian turkey sausage, which is preseasoned (so we didn’t need a laundry list of spices and herbs) and offered plenty of meaty flavor and heartiness but not much fat. Going up on the amount of aromatics helped us ratchet up the flavor of our sauce exponentially; a tablespoon of olive oil provided ample moisture for sautéing. A red bell pepper provided a slight sweetness and helped add substance to the sauce. Tomato paste amped up the savory notes of our ragu in lieu of the long simmering time, while red wine contributed depth and complexity. For the tomatoes, we used two cans of diced; processed until nearly smooth in the food processor, they cooked down to just the right clingy consistency on the stovetop. Ready in under an hour, our revamped ragu was now set to join the weeknight rotation—and since we’d trimmed so much fat from our recipe, we could still afford dessert, too.
Ingredients and Directions
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup red wine
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
12 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 pound penne
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Working in batches, pulse tomatoes with their juice in food processor until mostly smooth, about 10 pulses; transfer to bowl. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until golden brown, about 7 minutes.
2. Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in bell pepper and sausage and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until sausage is no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in processed tomatoes and simmer sauce until thickened, about 45 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Stir in sauce and basil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Serve.