Summer Pasta with Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes, + Basil
Summer Pasta with Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil is the ideal dinner party dish. It's so flavorful and pairs really nicely with a good bottle of red wine. Omit the sausage to keep it vegetarian and vegan. This recipe makes 6 servings.
- 1 lb dried pasta, something short with nooks and crannies for cradling the sauce is ideal, i.e. Pipe Rigate or Lumache, Creste di Gallo, Fusili, Cascatelli, or Campanelle
- 2 tablespoons + 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 lb fresh Italian sausage, preferably half spicy and half mild. Use fresh links and remove from casing or bulk ground.
- kosher salt
- 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 lbs cherry tomatoes, kept whole
- 3-4 sprigs fresh basil for cooking, plus more for serving
The Riffs, Subs + Swaps!
- The Sausage: Use fresh ground bulk Italian sausage or fresh Italian sausage links and take them out of the casing before cooking. I prefer half spicy half mild, but do all mild or all spicy if preferred. Chicken or turkey sausage work as well if you're not big on pork. In a pinch, any ground meat plus a few generous pinches of Italian seasoning will get the job done, too.
- The Tomatoes: I use cherry tomatoes because their small size means that their flavor is extremely concentrated, and they are naturally high in pectin, which makes for a very luscious sauce. Sub in early girl tomatoes or Romas if that's all you can find! I'm working on a version of this recipe that uses canned San Marzano tomatoes, which can be made any time of year when tomatoes are not in season - stay tuned!
- The Basil: Fresh marjoram is a great sub.
- The Pasta: I prefer something short with nooks and crannies for cradling the sauce is ideal, i.e. Pipe Rigate or Lumache, Creste di Gallo, Fusili, Cascatelli, or Campanelle. I tried Paccheri, the large, somwhat flat tube-shaped pasta, and while it looked absolutely beautiful (pictured in the main recipe photo), I didn't love it with this sauce, so I'd probably steer clear of larger flat noodles here.
- The Vegan + Vegetarian Swaps: Omit the sausage entirely and skip right to the onions/garlic/tomato paste step in the cooking. If you go this route, you may want to add more tomato paste, and/or another half pound to pound of cherry tomatoes for added flavor.
Crisp the sausage + cook the aromatics
- In a heavy bottomed dutch oven or large pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground sausage, break up with a wooden spoon, and cook until lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once golden brown, remove sausage from pan and set aside - you'll add it back to the pan to cook down with the tomatoes later.
- Add few glugs of olive oil to pan, add onions, and season generously with kosher salt. Stir to combine and saute the onions for several minutes until soft, stirring occasionally to lift up the caramelized brown bits in the pan.
- Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add tomato paste and give everything a big stir to combine the mixture. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the whole mixture starts to caramelize. Season generously with salt.
Cook tomatoes down + finish the sauce
- Add cherry tomatoes, 1/3 cup olive oil, and 3-4 sprigs fresh basil to pan. Season generously with kosher salt. Keep on medium to low heat for 15 minutes, being sure to gently crush some of the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to help them break down.
- Add the sausage back into the pan and cover with lid. Continue cooking on medium to low heat for another 20-30 minutes, until tomatoes have broken down more and the mixture becomes saucy. You'll want to gently crush any tomatoes that haven't broken down at this point. While the sauce is cooking down, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
Cook the pasta + serve
- Cook the pasta just shy of al dente, it'll finish cooking in the sauce. Once cooked, reserve a cup or so of the starchy pasta cooking water and set aside - you may want to use it later to loosen up the sauce. Transfer cooked pasta to sauce and fold to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. If you want it a little saucier, add a splash of pasta water.
- Divide into bowls and top with lots of fresh basil. It's pretty rich as is, so I don't think grated parmesan is totally necessary, but feel free to add it, it'll be delicious either way.