Braised Sausage with Rigatoni and Slow Roasted Sauce
Updated: Jun 24, 2020
¾ lb Rigatoni
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand or with an immersion blender (you can use any good can, but I prefer San Marzano or other Italian tomatoes. Just make sure you are using whole peeled tomatoes, not fire roasted, crushed, diced, etc)
2 cups chicken stock (make your own if you can! Otherwise a good store bought brand is fine)
2 sweet Italian sausage
2 spicy Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
5 sprigs fresh thyme
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (the fresher the better)
Pasta water (you’ll make that along the way)
Fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (get a block and grate it fresh if you can)
Kosher salt, to taste
Maldon salt, to finish
Black pepper, freshly cracked
Notes before you begin
Each can of tomatoes is salted differently. As a primary ingredient in the dish, you need to make sure they are salted to your liking. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl, crush by hand or with an immersion blender, and taste. Add salt if they need it and, if they are not bright and tomato-y enough, a splash of lemon juice. Always salt slowly — you can add more, you can’t remove any.
Turn your oven on to 325F. Pour the olive oil into a heavy bottom pot (a dutch oven works great here) over medium-high heat and cook until almost smoking — the oil will be shimmering. Place your sausages in the pot, poke holes in the skin to release any oil (otherwise they will burst), and sear on both sides. Once the sausages are nicely browned, remove them from the pot and set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium, add your garlic, red pepper flakes, and thyme sprigs. Hard herbs like thyme give up their flavor when cooked in oil and will add a delicious depth to the sauce. Cook the garlic until it is soft and fragrant (45–60 seconds), then add in the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent and soft, then remove the thyme sprigs (you don’t want to eat those).
Pour in the tomatoes and chicken stock, stirring to completely mix everything together. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, add the sausages back in so that they are almost entirely submerged in the mix, cover the pot, and place in the oven. Cook for two and a half hours, flipping the sausages half way through.
Once there are about thirty minutes left, place a pot filled with water over high heat and salt aggressively — It should have the same salinity as seawater. The pasta will only absorb a little bit of this and the salt will really intensify the flavor. Cook until two minutes before the box says it should be done, then start tasting. Try the pasta every 20 seconds until it is to your preferred doneness. It should be al dente (a little chewy) but you should cook it to your liking. Scoop off ½ a cup of starchy, perfect pasta water and set aside. Once your pasta is done, strain and set aside.
After two and a half hours, remove the pot from the oven, enjoy the incredible aroma that comes with slow cooking tomatoes and meat, and carefully remove the sausages. They will be very soft at this point so do this gently. Place the pot over medium-low heat and pour in your cooked pasta with a splash of pasta water (use more if the sauce is too thick). Make sure to stir continuously! The sauce has gotten very hot and can burn easily.
Cook the pasta in the sauce for 30 seconds, stirring to make sure every piece of pasta is coated. Turn off the heat, serve with the braised sausage, some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, cracked black pepper, and Maldon salt to taste. Enjoy!