A comforting and nourishing family meal, pasta with Italian Sausage Ragout.
By Lynda Balslev
Change is in the air. We are moving house in a week, and while it’s a local move, it still requires dismantling a life, glass by glass, book by book. Our belongings are wrapped and boxed in ambiguous cartons that creep along and up the walls, towering over the furniture with an insistency that precludes denial. In a week our life will be unpacked in a new home and environment, our belongings liberated and rapidly arranged then rearranged to produce a new vignette. For now, the dust bunnies and memories swirl about, gathering in corners and getting in our heads. And our dog is behaving strangely. I think she is hoping and fearing that she will also be packed.
Change is cathartic. It’s also unsettling. For all of the moving we’ve done in our family life, you would think this would be a piece of cake – the next step in our family adventure. Is it because I am older now? Or perhaps it’s because the children are older, fully aware and present in this move, packing their belongings and looking forward to our next step in their teenaged lives – a time which guarantees uncertainty with or without a move. I see how they watch me and listen to my words and mood, using me as a measure, while secretly I watch them back, feeling curious and just a little guilty about this event. After all, I am their mother.
So I reflect on our previous moves, from one country to another, to languages I would have yet to learn, searching for homes and a community to insert myself and my family into. This time we are simply moving zip codes, but this move has its baggage, too. So, today I will do what I do best and what has always served us well. I will cook a comforting and nourishing family meal, and we will share it for dinner as we sit together at our well traveled kitchen table.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ pound Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut in ¼ inch dice
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, optional
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Grated Parmigiano cheese
- Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and sauté until golden. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat in the pan. Add garlic, red pepper, oregano and chili flakes. Sauté 2 minutes. Add wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If needed, add sugar.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain. Serve hot with the sauce spooned over. Garnish with cheese and parsley.