Today is Epiphany – the last day of the Italian Christmas celebration. We will be marking the day with wine-braised sausage on penne pasta. Epiphany by definition “is a Christian festival observing the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi.” (Random House dictionary) After today, the Christmas tree and Nativity can be taken down.
Each Italian region has its food traditions for Epiphany. Sausages and other pork dishes are widely eaten. Broccoli rabe is popular and meals are often finished off with blood oranges. A dense raisin bread/cake takes center stage in some region (similar to Panettone) and bugies (cencis – fried pastry strips) will appear on other tables.
The wine-braised sausage is a chunky sauce that goes well with any tubular pasta (it would slide off a spaghetti or linguine). It also holds up well to a whole wheat penne. This recipe was adapted from Lynn Rossetto-Kasper’s The Splendid Table. Over the years, I intensified the tomato taste, and made the recipe more affordable. While I am using pork sausage, I have also used Italian turkey sausage. One of the best places (and prices) for Italian pork sausage is at Morelli’s Market in St. Paul.
Wine Braised Sausage with Penne Ingredients – serves 6-8
- 1 lb mild Italian sausage, crumbled
- 2 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, minced
- 4 tbl Italian parsley, minced
- 2 carrots, minced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 6 large sage leaves
- 3 tbl tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 large can diced tomatoes
- 16 oz penne pasta – or any tubular pasta
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Wine Braised Sausage Preparation
In a large skillet saute the sausage over medium until the pieces are browned. When browned, remove sausage to another plate. Pour out all but 1 T of the drippings. Add the olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion, parsley and carrot. saute 5-10 minutes (till soft).
Return the sausage and add the garlic and sage and cook about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and the wine. Simmer, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan for about 15-20 minutes – until the wine has evaporated and the sauce is aromatic. Gently stir in the tomatoes and simmer for five more minutes (until most of the liquid from the canned tomatoes has evaporated) . Toss the sauce with the pasta and about 1/2 of the cheese. Serve., passing additional cheese separately.
At midnight, the Italian Christmas season draws to a close. Let the New Year’s resolutions begin!
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