The Fine Cooking article (Weinstein and Scarbrough 2002) from which we got the garlic and clam cream sauce pasta recipe also had a few suggestions for alternate recipes. One of those was this recipe, which features Italian sausage and sun-dried tomatoes in a creamy sauce; as with the garlic and clam sauce, this recipe is extremely quick to make (less than 20 minutes from start to finish), yet very flavorful. I made this recipe (or the bacon version I discuss at the end) nearly once every other week while my SO was living out of state a few years back; I never got tired of it, though my SO prefers the garlic and clam pasta. Since we made this a few nights ago, it's today's post in honor of cooking week.
1/2 pound Italian sausage [or 1/2 pound bacon, see below]
7-9 oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup sweet red vermouth
1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 pound dry pasta (we often use fusilli)
0. Cook the pasta in salted water until it is al dente. When cooked, drain the pasta, but do not rinse with water. Work on the sauce (steps 1-6) while the pasta is cooking, though try to schedule your cooking so the pasta is done just a little before it needs to be added to the sauce (in step 7).
1. Remove the sausage from the casing and fry in a large pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently while breaking the sausage into small lumps. Continue cooking until the sausage is almost completely cooked (approximately 5 minutes, though it varies). If the sausage (or other small bits in the pan) start to burn, continue to the next step even if the sausage is not completely cooked.
2. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and fry, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes more (or less if things are burning).
3. Add the sage, stir for a few seconds, and then add the chicken stock and vermouth.
4. Cook until the liquid is reduced in volume by approximately 50% (a few minutes).
5. Add the cream, and simmer until the sauce is a good consistency to coat the pasta (a moderately-thick sauce), stirring frequently. It usually takes 2-4 minutes for the sauce to thicken to the right consistency; check the thickness of the sauce by stirring regularly with a spoon. When ready, the sauce should be a good deal thicker than it was just after you added the cream.
6. Once the sauce is thickened, mix in the cheese.
7. Add the drained pasta, mix well, and serve with additional grated cheese.
This recipe makes enough for a hearty dinner for the two of us, with very little left over. The original article says that the pasta doesn't reheat well; I've found that it reheats just fine in the microwave, as long as I mix it frequently as I reheat it, and add a little bit of freshly grated cheese once it's hot.
We aren't very particular about the vermouth we add to the sauce - if we're out of vermouth, we'll add just about any red wine. It has always tasted great.
If you want to be a little less traditional, this recipe is also delicious when made with bacon instead of sausage. To do this, replace the sausage with 1/2 pound bacon, cut the uncooked bacon into approximately 1/2" wide slides (so you have many 1/2" by ~1" pieces; bacon is easier to cut if slightly frozen), and follow the directions in the recipe, reducing the heat to medium while the bacon cooks. The bacon will likely take longer to cook than the sausage does. Using 1/2 pound of bacon makes a very salty, bacony dish; if that doesn't sound good to you, you may want to use less bacon, not salt the pasta water, and/or reduce the added cheese a bit.
Weinstein, B., and M. Scarbrough. 2002. "How to Make a Light Creamy Pasta Sauce." Fine Cooking 50: 45-49.