Hello. Today we’re going to take a trip into the world of Italian cooking. What we’re going to prepare today is a meat gravy with sweet Italian sausage served with rigatoni in 15 simple steps. The kind of Italian cooking we’re doing here is found in many Italian restaurants and household kitchens primarily on the east coast, in the Northeast section of America. Take note that I used the word gravy. There is a debate always raging everywhere from Philly to New York and all through New Jersey as to whether or not it’s called sauce or gravy. Well, here’s my politically correct answer: When there’s meat used to flavor it, it’s gravy. When there’s not, it’s sauce. But, if you’re like me, you say gravy all the time anyway. Okay, let’s get cooking here.
First, you’re going to need the following ingredients: Four cans of crushed tomatoes (I use Contadina brand).Two cans of tomato paste (you can use three if you really like a thick gravy)Olive oilAbout two pounds of sweet Italian sausage (you can get this at your supermarket or your local butcher, your call).One pound of rigatoni – any brand will do, but steer clear of the supermarket brands, they tend to be bland and you don’t save that much by buying them.For seasoning: basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper (if your palette desires), bay leaves, and pecorino romano cheese. Also, keep some fennel handy to season your sausage.
Depending on which seasonings you have on hand already and where you get your sausage, this meal should cost you no more than 20 dollars and feeds a hungry family of four with leftovers. Let’s start with the sausage.
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Take a regular-sized baking tray and cover with aluminum foil. Use a non-stick foil for easier clean-up. Then, gently coat the foil with olive oil. Remember, when sausage cooks, its essentially cooking in its own fat, so you don’t want to make it too greasy. If you’re nervous about the olive oil, use a cooking spray. Do not use cooking oil, your meal will be too greasy.
Now, take your sausage and evenly distribute it on the pan. Use a knife to poke two or three small holes in each piece of sausage so it cooks thoroughly.
Season your sausage with a dash of all your seasonings, plus a little fennel. Trust me, there is no better combination than Italian sausage and fennel. It is the peanut butter and jelly of an Italian kitchen.Once your sausage is in the oven, start your gravy. You’re sausage is fine for the next 30 minutes.
Cover this with foil and the top of your tray. For your own benefit, this can be a meal of its own if you chop up a few green peppers, onions, and mushrooms to cook with the sausage. Today, since we will be adding the sausage to our gravy, we’re not using those ingredients. Just keep it in mind for a future meal.
Starting the gravy. Anyone can be a great chef if you have a little patience, forget about the measuring cup and listen to what I am about to tell you. Take a large cooking pot, at least a gallon deep and coat the bottom with olive oil. Turn up the heat. Again, like the sausage, don’t use too much olive oil or else you’ll have too much grease in your gravy.
You can do one of two things here with your olive oil. Cook a few pieces of fresh garlic, or add a dash of garlic powder, onion powder, and basil like we’re going to do today. This really brings a great aroma while cooking and is definitely something your whole family will love waking up to on a Sunday morning. Let it simmer on low while you open your cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.
Once your cans are open, gently pour them into the pot. Make sure that your heat is low, you don’t want to splash that olive oil and burn yourself.
After all of your crushed tomatoes have been added to the pot, stir in your tomato paste with a big wooden spoon. Turn up the heat on your oven just past midway so it starts to get hot.
Now, here’s a little trick. Before you throw away those cans, take one can of tomatoes and fill it up half way with water.
Pour your water into the tomatoes. What this does is stretch out your sauce obviously, and instead of just pouring water in, by using the can, your getting as much tomato flavor as you can.
Okay, stir that gravy and grab your seasoning. First, take your bay leaves. You only need two or three. Drop them into the gravy. Now put those bay leaves away, you won’t need them anymore.
Now, take your basil (my favorite seasoning) and sprinkle it in there generously. Follow this with a dash of oregano, a coating of garlic salt, garlic and onion powder, and a sprinkling of black pepper. As for the pecorino romano, this is optional. Some people think adding cheese in the cooking process could make the gravy salty. But, if you take a table spoon and sprinkle it on, you’ll be happy with the end result. I use a dash of crushed red pepper in this gravy, once again, totally optional. Too much crushed red pepper will not be pleasing to your guests.
For the rest of your cooking, keep your garlic and onion powders, basil and oregano handy. Everything else, you can put away.
Now that you’ve set up your gravy, return your attention to the sausage. After cooking for a half hour at 375, these sausages need to be turned.
Remove the lid and the foil, carefully turn your sausages over with a fork and slide back into the oven for another half an hour. Failure to turn a sausage leaves you with an edible, but somewhat charred link.
After a full hour of cooking, the sausage will be a light brown color like seen here. Remember, you don’t want to overcook the sausage because it will cook even more in the gravy and you don’t want it to become an overpowering taste.
Before adding the sausage to the gravy, make sure that you drip some of the excess fat. You see in the pan how much fat has come out of the sausages to help it cook and you don’t want all that fat in your gravy.
Once you’ve dripped the fat, put all of your sausage into the gravy.
Now for the secrets. Any time an Italian tells you they have a secret ingredient to for their gravy, they’ve done one of too things. They’ve added a little red wine or they’ve let it cook for a long time. Those are the only secrets. If you want to add a little wine, go ahead. Then pour yourself a glass, because a good gravy takes at least six hours to cook.
In a smaller pot, boil water…
And add your rigatoni. Remember, we are using Barilla brand pasta because that is what I like. Use anything except a supermarket brand. After 8 to 12 minutes, your rigatoni should be done cooking. Taste your pasta to make sure it has been cooked al dente, an Italian word meaning “to the bite.” Al dente pasta is firm but not too hard. If your pasta cooks too long it will become mushy – not long enough, it will be too hard.
Carefully remove your pot from the stove and take it to the sink where you will have your pasta strainer set up. Pour the rigatoni into the strainer.
Leave the rigatoni in the strainer and shake out all the water.
Next, take a ladle and a large pasta bowl as shown here. Take a ladle full of gravy and coat the bottom of the pasta bowl.
Next add your rigatoni and the amount of sauce you so desire. Toss rigatoni and the sauce together to evenly distribute it.
Step 15 is quite possibly the most important step. Your rigatoni, sausage, and sauce have all been combined to create a fantastic meal. There is only one crucial thing left to do.
Mangia! Eat and enjoy yourself. This meal is worth wait and requires only about a half hour of prep time. You will have plenty of leftovers of this hearty meal – that is of course, unless you follow these instructions and you won’t have to worry about leftovers.
East Coast Italian Cooking
East Coast Italian Cooking<br />Presented by Steven Ziegler<br />