A quick weeknight pasta with crumbled sausage and fresh tomatoes
One of my favorite simple meals to make in the summer is pasta tossed with fresh cherry or grape tomatoes. It's so easy, but when the pasta is cooked perfectly al dente and the tomatoes are sweet and juicy, it tastes just like you're sitting down for dinner in Italy. I've been subjecting my husband to a lot of vegetarian meals lately, so I added in some crumbled Italian sausage to this recipe to give him some meat. Combined with lightly-cooked tomatoes and garlic, this forms the entire "sauce" for the pasta. One important tip is that for a pasta with so few ingredients, make sure that you are really salting your boiling water before cooking pasta. If in doubt, taste a spoonful of water before adding the orecchiette - it should taste salty. Most people don't add enough salt and then the pasta doesn't have any flavor to it.
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Orecchiette with Italian Sausage & Cherry Tomatoes:
- 1 lb. orecchiette or similar shaped pasta
- 3/4 lb. fresh Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/4 c. grated parmesan
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- handful of fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
- pinch of red chile flakes
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Let the sausage brown and cook through, breaking up the sausage with the back of a spoon as it cooks.
- Once the water is boiling, add a few large pinches of salt and the pasta. Cook according to package directions for al dente.
- Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the tomatoes, chile flakes, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and add the garlic. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and lightly pressing on the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to break them up a bit. The tomatoes should be soft but should still hold most of their shape.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 c. pasta cooking water.
- Add the sausage back to the pot with the tomatoes, along with the pasta, pasta water, and parmesan.
- Stir everything together until well mixed and check for seasoning. Just before serving, sprinkle with basil.