Roasted Tomato Sauce with Sausage and Rapini

  • 1 1/2 lbs cherry or grape tomatoes, halved if they’re large, quartered if large than 1 1/2″
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 links Italian sausage, sliced into coins
  • 1 large onion, finely diced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T capers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped olives, kalamata or green
  • 1 anchovy, mashed or 1/2 t anchovy paste
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 C dry white wine
  • 1 pound pasta (I like either linguine or rotini with this)
  • 1 large bunch rapini or other bitter green, rinsed and roughly chopped, tough stems removed
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley (you probably won’t use all of this)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2-4 oz finely grated hard Italian cheese like Pecorino

Brown the sausage coins on medium heat with a little oil in a large oven-proof skillet. Remove sausage and set aside. Toss the tomatoes with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme sprigs and add to the pan. Be careful to not over-salt at this stage as you’ll be adding in rather salty ingredients next. Stir gently to deglaze and then roast in the oven at 375°F for 20-30 minutes, stirring once. Meanwhile prepare the onions, garlic, capers, olives, anchovy, red pepper flakes and mix all together with the wine. Add to the tomato mixture and return to the oven, roasting for a further 20-30 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent, stirring half-way through. Remove thyme stems before adding to pasta. Add in a ladle or two of the starchy pasta water if needed to thin it out.

While roasting the sauce for the final time, boil your pasta water and prep your greens. I like to get the younger rapini bunches if possible so you can use more of the tender stems which means both less waste and less prep. Slice the greens into approx. 1″ ribbons and chop the flower heads and tender stems into 2″ long pieces, discarding any stems any thicker than about 1/4″, or any stems you can’t easily eat raw.  Boil the pasta in salted water for just under the recommended al dente time (since the pasta will finish cooking with the sauce), adding in the greens 1 1/2 minutes before the pasta will be ready. Immediately drain and add back to the pasta pot along with the hot sauce and reserved sausage pieces. Dress with chopped Italian parsley, olive oil, grated cheese and lemon zest to taste, reserving some of the parsley, oil and cheese to use as a final garnish at the table.

This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage and anchovy.

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