Malloreddus with Sausage Tomato Sauce

serves: 8

This is a great sauce, almost a universal pasta dressing, but particularly suitable for malloreddus. Because it is so good and useful, I make it in large batches and pack it in small portions for freezing. There are times when I want to make some pasta for two (or sometimes just for me), and there's nothing better than having a small container of tomato-sausage sauce on hand to dress it.


For the Sauce
1½ pounds sweet Italian sausage
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing the pasta
2 cups onions, chopped
1 plump garlic clove, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta pot
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
6 cups Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
1 branch of fresh basil, with lots of leaves
1 cup freshly grated pecorino

For Cooking and Finishing the Pasta
2 pounds Malloreddus, (See recipe for Homemade Malloreddus)


Remove the sausage casings, and crumble the meat into a large bowl.

Pour over it 1/2 cup of the wine, and mix this in with your fingers, breaking up any big meat clumps, so the sausage is evenly moistened.

Pour the olive oil into the big skillet, and set it over medium heat. Stir in the onions, and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes; scatter the sliced garlic in the pan, and season with the salt and peperincino. When everything is sizzling, crumble in the sausage, and stir with the onions.

Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup wine, raise the heat a bit, and cook, stirring, as the wine cooks away and the sausage becomes all browned, about 10 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and a cup of water (which you've used to slosh and rinse the tomato cans and bowl). Submerge the basil branch in the liquid, cover the skillet, and bring to a boil. Set the cover ajar, adjust the heat to keep the sauce bubbling steadily, and cook for an hour or more, until the sauce has developed good flavor and reduced to the consistency you like for dressing pasta. Remove and discard basil branch. You can use some of the sauce right away-you'll need half of it to dress a batch of malloreddus-or let it cool, then refrigerate or freeze for later use.

For cooking and dressing the pasta: Bring a large pot of well-salted water (at least 7 quarts water with 11/2 tablespoons kosher salt) to a rolling boil. Heat half the sausage-tomato sauce, about 4 cups, to a bare simmer in a wide skillet or sauté pan (if you've just made the sauce, use the same pan). If the sauce has cooled and thickened, loosen it with some of the pasta water.

Shake the malloreddus in a colander or strainer to remove excess flour, and drop all of it into the pot, stirring to keep the pieces from clumping together. Cover the pot, and rapidly return the water to a rolling boil, stirring once or twice, then cook the malloreddus, partly covered, until barely al dente, 5 to 6 minutes.

Lift out the pasta in big bunches with a spider, drain for a moment, and spill them into the simmering sauce. Over low heat, toss the malloreddus and sauce together for a minute or two, until all are coated and perfectly al dente. (Thin the sauce, if necessary, with hot pasta water, or thicken it quickly over higher heat.)

Turn off the heat, and sprinkle the grated cheese over the malloreddus and toss well. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, toss again, and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, passing more cheese at the table.