Pasta with Garlic, Herbs, and Sausage
1 lb twirled pasta (Try to find gemelli. If you can’t, go for fusilli)
¾ cup olive oil
1 cup Italian parsley, leaves removed from stems and finely chopped
¼ cup fresh rosemary, picked from stems and finely chopped
½ lb Italian sausage, out of casing (Try to find sausage with fennel in it. Fennel will make this taste like spring. If you do not eat meat, see the note below!)
1–1 ½ tsp red pepper flakes (As always, the fresher the better. Use more if you like it hotter)
Reserved pasta water (Starchy, salty, perfect. You’ll make this along the way)
9 cloves garlic, sliced (There is no such thing as too much garlic)
Juice and zest from half a lemon
½ tsp honey, optional (You only need to drizzle this on at the end if you’re feeling adventurous. I find it brings out floral notes from the rosemary and lemon)
Black pepper, freshly ground
Kosher salt (Do not use iodized salt, it will make your food taste metallic)
Parmigiano Reggiano (Get a block, grate it fresh)
Notes before you begin:
This dish comes together very quickly. Make sure you have all of the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.
In this recipe we will be using parsley, a soft herb, and we will only add this right at the end. Cooking soft herbs is a quick way for them to lose their flavor and just get mushy. We want to preserve the bright, verdant taste that it brings to the dish!
If you are a vegetarian, no worries! Use chickpeas instead of sausage. Drain one can of chickpeas and pat them dry. Once dried, sprinkle them with fresh black pepper (four or five turns of the mill), two medium pinches of salt, a tsp of fresh oregano, and a ¼ cup of olive oil. Toss them together in a bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. At the step where you would add the sausage, toss them in the pan instead and cook them until they are lightly browned.
Using the kosher salt, aggressively salt your pasta water. It should have the same salinity as the ocean if not a little saltier. Remember, only a little of this will actually get into the pasta. Bring to a boil and add the pasta, cooking it for however long the box says minus two minutes. When the timer goes off, reserve a cup of the beautiful, starchy water and start tasting a piece of pasta every 15 seconds. As soon as you like the texture, strain it. Toss it in a little olive oil so it does not stick together.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, pour ¼ cup of the olive oil, heat it until it is shimmering, and add in the sausage. Place the sausage into the pan and flatten it with a spatula, keeping it together in one unit. In doing this, you are browning the sausage and creating a nice crust on it, like you would on a hamburger. This gives the sausage a great texture and prevents it from turning into grey matter. Check occasionally and, once it is nicely browned, carefully flip it over. If it kind of comes apart, no worries. Once you get a similar color on the other side, use a wooden spoon or plastic spatula to break it up in the pan and continue to sauté the chunks until they are cooked through. Remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil.
Add the rest of your olive oil into the pan, heat it until it shimmers, and then throw in the garlic. Cook the garlic until you see it just start to brown on the edge, and quickly turn the heat to medium-low. Be careful not to burn the garlic, as it will get bitter and tough. Add in red pepper flakes (make sure they all get coated in the oil), rosemary, and the cooked sausage. Stir for one minute. Throw in a splash of the reserved pasta water, stirring continuously to create an emulsion (combining the pasta water and the olive oil into a single sauce using the starch from the pasta water).
Once the pasta water and oil has thoroughly combined, turn off the heat, throw in the pasta, the parsley, the lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir the pasta, making sure to get every piece coated in the sauce. Drizzle a tiny amount of honey (if you want) over the top and sprinkle lightly with Maldon salt, and crack some fresh black pepper to taste. Enjoy!