My friends, family and I love to go out to eat at Italian restaurants and I never seem to tire of it. Especially the pasta dishes (and maybe tiramisu as well). How about you? My husband and I have eaten at several great Italian restaurants in San Diego, our hometown of about 3 years. Our favorites are Antica Trattoria and Osteria Panevino (our dog loves eating there with us too!). My husband likes to eat pasta and cooks it really well too. The first meal that he cooked while we were dating was a salad and a vegetarian pasta dish (as I was a vegetarian at the time), like a pasta primavera. I was impressed. Today, pasta is a staple in our home.
We had a bunch of pork shoulder stored in the freezer so I decided to grind it up and make sausage out of it. I left it loose and did not stuff it into casings so I could cook a really interesting dish: pasta with wine, saffron and sausage (also known as pasta al vino, zafferano e salsiccia). I learned about this dish from Debi Mazar and Gabrielle Corcos of Under the Tuscan Gun and the Cooking Channel TV show Extra Virgin. I want to try so many of their recipes!
Pasta dishes are all about balance and harmony. Not too much of one ingredient. Just the right amount of sauce, seasoning and pasta. I would say that if done right, this sausage and saffron pasta dish is like a symphony of flavors and textures. So delicious! I think it is pretty unique too as saffron is used to flavor the dish. This spice can be pricey though, but I have gotten some pretty good and affordable saffron at Trader Joe’s. I first had this spice as an adult and is now one of my favorite flavorings. To me, it makes things taste sophisticated and warm. A friendly and fancy spice. If you don’t want to use sausage, you could use your favorite ground meat. Ground turkey would be really good. I could see mushrooms, chopped in bite sized pieces like cooked ground meat, as a nice vegetarian alternative.
As for the type of pasta, for this oil-based sauce, a long noodle would work well such as linguine, capellini, or spaghetti. I chose linguine because it has a smooth and luxurious mouthfeel that pairs well with the sausage and saffron sauce.
Probably the easiest step of this dish is making the saffron “tea” by warming some water (not too steaming hot!) and adding a pinch of saffron to steep while you cook.
The other main flavorings are onion, rosemary, and sage. I have a lot of dried sage so I decided to use that today. Fresh sage is even better in this dish, but I don’t mind using dried every now and then. For this dish, most of the onions are chopped while a handful is sliced. The sliced onions are a nice textural element that makes the dish taste better.
As for the sausage, make sure to use ones without any fennel or anise. It is really important because those two spices will ruin the dish and make it taste like cough medicine. Also, be careful with the hot sausages. I would suggest using only 1 or 2 hot sausages as the heat will take away from the delicate saffron flavor. My sausage mix: ~2.5 lbs ground pork shoulder (can also use 2 lbs pork shoulder and add 0.5 lbs of pork fatback), 20 grams Kosher salt, 15 grams evaporated cane sugar, 3 grams black pepper, pinch of crushed red pepper, pinch of nutmeg, 2-3 tablespoons chopped garlic, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 cup of dry white wine and 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Mix all these ingredients thoroughly.
The sauce getting steamy. It’s a quick and simple sauce. It starts with sautéing onion, then browning the sausage, adding seasoning as well as white wine, herbs, and saffron. The sauce then cooks until the pasta is ready. Remember to remove the rosemary sprigs.
While the sauce is cooking down, start your pasta. I used quinoa linguine. I like the Ancient Harvest brand.
This dish can be done in about 30 minutes. It’s pretty quick and ideal for a weeknight dinner or a simple, yet elegant lunch. It is a light-tasting pasta dish, but satisfying. Debi Mazar calls it a”feminine” dish. But men will like it too. My husband enjoyed it. He said it tasted good even without the parmesan cheese and I agree. By the way, this photo was taken with my Panasonic point-and-shoot. I think the saffron yellow pops more in this picture. It’s making me hungry. Good thing I made so much of this pasta and had leftovers for lunch today. 😀
Pasta with wine, saffron and sausage
minimally adapted from Under the Tuscan Gun
- a pinch of saffron
- olive oil
- 1/3 of a large onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 of a large onion, sliced
- salt & pepper to taste
- 4 pork sausages (or about 1-1.5 lbs sausage) can also use ground meat or chopped mushrooms (for vegetarian alternative)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 handful fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried sage)
- 1 pound pasta
- Make the saffron “tea” by steeping the pinch of saffron with about 1/2 cup of hot water. Mix and set aside.
- In a pan on medium heat, sauté both the chopped and sliced onion in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook for a few minutes until softened, but still has a bit of crunch. Then add the sausage and break it up with a cooking spoon.
- As the meat starts to brown, add the rosemary and sage. Let it cook for about 3 minutes then add the white wine. Continue cooking the sauce until the alcohol smell is gone, about 5-7 more minutes.
- Add the saffron and the liquid and continue cooking on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Meanwhile, start cooking the pasta in boiling water for a minute less than indicated on the package. Once al dente, drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Mix and cook for a minute or two longer. Serve with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if desired. Buon Appetito!
As Italian Chef Lidia Bastianich says, “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” ( “Everyone to the table to eat”).
- Trottole al Giallo con Salsiccia (massiskitchen.wordpress.com)
- Wednesday dinner: Pasta with sausage and rappi pesto (a1dente.wordpress.com)
- Vegetarian Sausages for British Sausage Week (greatbritishchefs.com)
- Pasta with Mushroom-Sausage Ragu (illhavesecondsblog.wordpress.com)
- Recipe from the road: Pasta with boerewors and cauliflower (unsettlingdown.wordpress.com)