Every family has a favorite weeknight recipe. Ours is Sausage Penne. I’ve made it for years, and I love it because it takes very little time to prepare. It’s hearty and delicious. And, served with a simple green salad, it is a complete comfort meal that always puts my husband in a good mood.
Okay, having said this, I realize that it sounds like such a “Suzy Homemaker” thing to say. So much so, that it reminds me of this ridiculous old ad for a set of recipe cards that ran on tv when I was young. It featured a woman with a bouffant hairdo and pedal pushers showed off a set of “full-color” laminated cards, while the voice-over gushed about wonderful recipes for “Men’s Favorites, like Waikiki Meatballs and Cranberry Puffs.” I always laughed at this ad because, at least the titles of those recipes, did not strike me as something I would promote as men’s favorites. However, I can assure you that Sausage Penne actually is a men’s favorite. And, to quote another old ad for Irish Spring soap, “Manly, yes. But I like it too!
Clearly, I watched too much television as a child. But my misbegotten youth aside, I hope you will give Sausage Penne a try.
Penne is a thin tube-shaped pasta cut at an angle at both ends to resemble a quill pen. Penne is actually the plural of the Italian penna, meaning pen. Penne comes in a smooth or a ridged (rigate) noodle. I like to use penne rigate because I think the ridges hold more of the sauce.
As for the sausage, there is a famous quote attributed to the 19th century German Chancellor, Otto Bismark, that says, “The lesser the people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep at night.” While I appreciate the irony in this statement, I have to disagree with old Otto. If you are going to eat something, it’s important to know what’s in it. Italian sausage is typically made from pork and seasoned with garlic and fennel. Hot Italian sausage contains the same spices with the addition of red pepper. I find that the Italian sausage you can buy in the grocery store is not adequately seasoned, so I purchase mild sausage and add my own red pepper and extra fennel.
Onion, red wine, crushed tomatoes, and a few spices make up the simple sauce, which only needs to simmer for about 20 minutes, or the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. This recipe makes about 6 generous servings, so our family of four always has leftovers. However, this is perfectly fine because Sausage Penne is even better the next day.
- 1 box penne pasta
- 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. mild Italian sausage
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano)
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp. dried marjoram
Boil approximately 4 quarts of water in a stockpot. When water comes to a rapid boil, add salt and penne. Cook penne until al dente --about 10 minutes and drain.
While the water is coming to a boil, dice the onion and saute it in a large deep skillet until softened and translucent.
Add sausage and cook until no longer pink, breaking up sausage with a wooden spoon.
Once the sausage is cooked through, add the red wine. Cook until the wine is fully absorbed.
Add the crushed red pepper, fennel, salt and the crushed tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Add marjoram and the cooked pasta, stirring to combine and cook for another 2 minutes.
Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.
- If you can't get ground Italian sausage in a package, you can buy Italian sausage links and remove the casings before cooking.
- I like to use mild Italian sausage for this recipe so I can choose how spicy to make it. But if you are comfortable with the heat level, you can buy hot Italian sausage and omit the crushed red pepper.
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