Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Orecchiette with Sausage & Sundried Tomato Pistou

If pressed hard to name my favorite pasta more times than not I'd blurt out, "orecchiette!!". It's such a toothsome, fun pasta, each little hat holding a cache of some caught sauce or sausage under its brim. For this particular batch of orecchiette, I knew I wanted something with sundried tomatoes, for which I'd been nursing a heavy craving lately. I fixated on a pesto - only to find that the sole nuts in the house were....raw unshelled peanuts. I skipped nuts and presto, pistou! On a humid summer's eve, I appreciated a sauce sans nuts, as it was slightly lighter fare.

Make sure you're using jarred sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil for this recipe, and feel free to double the pistou batch - extra pistou makes a tasty spread on crusty garlic-rubbed crostini.

Orecchiette with Sausage & Sundried Tomato Pistou
Makes 4-6 servings
*1 packed cup sundried tomatoes
*1/4 cup densely packed fresh basil leaves, plus a few extra for garnish
*Scant 1/4 cup olive oil from the sundried tomato jar + extra as needed
*6 cloves garlic, 2 finely chopped
*2 tablespoons freshly grated Parm-Reg
*Pinch red pepper flakes
*About 1 lb dried orecchiette pasta (preferably De Cecco)
*2 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed

Make the pistou by blitzing the tomatoes, tomato oil, basil and 4 of the garlic cloves in a small food processor. Add the Parm, red pepper flakes and pinches of salt & pepper and taste until it's seasoned just so. It should be relatively thick , no need to thin it out to the consistency of its greener pesto cousins.  Set the pistou aside and put water on to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, saute the sausage until browned and cooked, breaking it up into small pieces, and then set aside. Add a touch of tomato oil to the pan, lower the heat and saute the finely chopped garlic cloves for about a minute or so and then add to the sausage. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water, and toss the orecchiette with a bit more of the tomato oil (it is proving indispensable, eh?). Add the pasta back to the pot, along with the pistou and sausage-garlic mix. Stir to combine thoroughly, adding a touch of the cooking water if necessary (it wasn't necessary for me, but reserve some just in case...!). Dish out and dust with extra Parm-Reg and aromatic ribbons of basil leaves.