Cavatelli with sausage, mint and tomato
This is one of the deceptively simple recipes in Rachel Roddy's wonderful A-Z of Pasta.
Although, like many of the recipes, it looks - and is - straightforward it's prefaced by a fascinating essay on how to make cavatelli and the origins of the shape which comes from southern Italy and is also known as cavateddi and cavasuneddi.
"What is clear though is that these small pasta sculptures are domestic works of art that came about through ingenuity and the need to make something to eat. We should approach cavatelli as people have for hundreds of years, finding a way to cave a nub of dough .... the aim of all [methods] is to create both a cave and a sauce-catching surface. Because at the end of the day, catching the sauce, that is the aim."
I imagined that Rachel used Italian sausages (which you can buy from most good Italian delis) for the sausagemeat rather than the English style you might use for stuffing but while she says yes, for preference, any good sausagemeat will do.
There is also a wonderful footnote (below) on how to get the best out of garlic which is well worth reading.
Cavatelli with sausage, mint and tomato
Cavasuneddi or cavatelli con salsiccia, menta e pomodoro
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
400g sausage meat, crumbled
150ml white wine
400g ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
a sprig of fresh mint
450g fresh or 400g dried cavatelli, orecchiette, fusilli or casarecce
grated pecorino and red chilli flakes, to serve
In a capacious pot over a medium-low heat, fry the crushed garlic in the olive oil. Add the crumbled sausage and stir until all pinkness has gone.
Pour in the wine and raise the heat. When the wine has evaporated, add the diced tomatoes and cook for another 5–10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Finally, add the mint leaves and salt to taste.
Cook and drain the cavatelli, put them into the pot with the sauce and let them simmer for a few minutes, stirring and adding some of the cooking water if needed. Serve, passing round grated pecorino and red chilli flakes for those who want them.
A note about garlic
While some would have us believe garlic is a fixed star, it varies massively in strength and pungency. This is to do with variety, but more so with age. Garlic is a spring vegetable – young bulbs have white skin and tender cloves with a sweet, sunny fragrance, with which you can be careless with quantity. As garlic gets older its skin turns translucent and flaky and the cloves take on a greater pungency and power. Which is great, but you need to take care, also pull out any green shoot that has developed inside. Too old and garlic can be acrid and a bit of a bully. Be reassured, garlic is no good at hiding, the smell as you open a clove tells you everything. Then prepare accordingly, also to your personal taste. It is all about surface area. Peel and gently crush with the back of a knife or the heel of your hand so the clove is broken but still whole, for a gentle fragrance (whole means it can be pulled out if you wish). Peel and slice thinly for a stronger flavour. Peel and mince for the strongest. In all three cases always put the garlic into a cold pan with cold oil (fat) and then on a gentle heat. To start, warm rather than fry garlic, to encourage and coax out the flavour, then progress to a gentle sizzle but not much more; too hot and the garlic will burn and, regardless of how young or carefully prepared, it will turn into a bitter bully. Store garlic out of the fridge.
Extracted from An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy, published by Penguin Fig Tree at £25. Photograph by Jonathan Lovekin.
What to drink: As the sauce includes white wine I'd be inclined to drink a white wine with it though given it's meat-based a red would also do. If you want to keep it local you could chose a Sicilian or Southern Italian white though I often find the wines we get here are too fruity. You really just want a simple carafe wine of the kind you get in a trattoria so I'd personally go for something like a verdicchio or vernaccia. A simple Sicilian red like a young nero d'avola would work too but as Rachel told me when I interviewed her for my piece on wine with pasta in the Guardian you don’t drink anything from outside your immediate area and the house wine is just fine.
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