You can’t beat a sausage ragù. You can’t beat any ragù, and I generally make mine with half beef mince and half sausage Italian sausage meat anyway. But today went pear-shaped and I was in a hurry, and so the sausage casserole with polenta I’d planned to feed my family for lunch and was feeling oh-so-virtuous about didn’t quite happen. It transformed itself into tagliatelle with sausage ragù. This happens sometimes. But in my defence, I say, I am not a cook. I cook and I enjoy cooking, but above all I love food. And if I cook it it’s because I want to eat it. Although if anyone else wants to do it, especially if they are a cook and a good one at that, then please, be my guest. I’ll happily sit down to table when it’s ready.
Of course the secret of any good ragù is in the cooking time, but as I was running out of time and the kids were off playing football this afternoon, I only gave it about half an hour. Am probably stretching this by still calling it a ragù, as the whole point of ragù is the long cooking time, but it still tasted good. Although admittedly not as good as if it had been cooked slowly for three hours.
Do try to get Italian sausage to make this. If you can’t you could always just use good old mince. Lamb would work well and give a similar depth of flavour. This is robust Autumn cooking to ward off a cold, grey November day.
So, start by chopping up a shallot finely and soften it in a slug of olive oil in a smallish saucepan. I use about a 30 cm stretch of sausage as when I buy it it’s all rolled up in the packet in one length. Take the sausage meat out of the skin. Add it to the shallot. You’ll need to break it up with a spoon to make sure it becomes minced sausage meat. Cook it above a fairly fierce heat and then add about a third of a small glass of red wine. Keep the heat up and let the alcohol burn off, but obviously don’t burn the sausage. Then add about two thirds of a tin of good quality Italian tomatoes. I used chopped ones today as plum ones need more time to break up. Add a sprinkling of black pepper, put the lid on, and let it simmer away.
Cook the tagliatelle according to the instructions on the packet, mix in the sausage ragù with that famous half a glass of cooking water that you’ve put aside to bind it all together, and serve. I don’t add cheese but you can do as you prefer.
“Buono,” said my son as I was serving it up. And yes it was rather good, even if I say so myself.
The sausage casserole and polenta will have to wait for another day.