This is a rustic plateful, not one for too much finesse or gussy-ing up but, as with so many Italian-inspired dishes, full of flavour. This is all about piling the sauce-coated pasta into a bowl and having at it with a bib around your neck, a zingy salad on the side and a large glass of something deliciously Italian to hand. A red-check tablecloth and a candle in an old Chianti fiasco is all the better! I'm not so sure about an accordion being played in the background mind you. If you can lay your hands on some genuine article Italian sausages flavoured with fennel seeds I urge you to use the meat from those but, without going online you can adapt some lovely British sausage meat by adding ground toasted fennel seeds and herbs to make a delicious difference, instantly bringing Italy that bit nearer. Buon appetito!
Sausage, Mushroom and Mascarpone Pasta
(serves 4 very heartily or 8 as part of an Italian feast with antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti etc.)
- 6 high-meat content sausages, skinned or about 300g good quality sausage meat (if you can get authentic, meaty Italian sausages — not salami — as mentioned above you can drop the fennel and marjoram/oregano in the ingredients below)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano or marjoram (if using dried herbs use 1 heaped teaspoon)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 180g/6oz mushrooms, sliced or chopped (any type you like)
- 400g/16oz pasta (again, any type you like, shapes, noodles, ribbons, whatever takes your fancy)
- 50g/2oz parmesan, grated, plus extra grated to serve
- 120g/4oz Mascarpone cheese (about 4 heaped tablespoons)
- 1 small glass of dry white wine (125mls or so. If you like you could use Marsala for a richer sauce)
- Juice of half a lemon
- A small bunch of basil leaves, torn rather than chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a frying pan set over a low to moderate heat toast the fennel seeds for a few minutes until they begin to release their aroma. Tip them into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind.
2. Combine the sausage meat, ground fennel and oregano/marjoram in a bowl and mix well.
3. Add the olive oil to the frying pan over a moderate heat. Add the sausage meat and fry, breaking it up roughly with the spoon as you do so. It really doesn't matter if its uneven, and how big the pieces are is up to you, but think bite sized. Cook until browned, then spoon into a bowl leaving as much oil in the pan as possible. Set the sausage meat aside.
4. Lower the heat and add the onions to the pan to soften for about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, bring the heat up a little and fry until the mushrooms are soft.
5. Add the wine and let it bubble, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan of any flavoursome crusty bits, until it is reduced by half.
6. When the wine has reduced by half, turn down the heat to low and add half the lemon juice and then the Mascarpone cheese. Stir well until the mascarpone is melting and then add the cooked sausage meat back into the pan.
7. Simmer gently for a few minutes until the meat is piping hot. Add the grated parmesan and stir well. Taste and season with the salt and pepper, and if you think it needs it the rest of the lemon juice add it, but an extra grind of black pepper is always nice here. Take the pan off the hob and keep the sauce warm.
8. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions for the type you have chosen. Once cooked as you like it, drain it reserving two or three tablespoons of the cooking water. Season to taste and toss the pasta with the sauce and the torn basil leaves and, if necessary, a spoonful or two of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce until you have the desired coating consistency. Spoon it into warm bowls and scatter over the extra Parmesan. Serve with a tomato and red onion or green salad, for contrast.
Wine recommendation from the Italian offer:
Italian wines are so wonderful with food wherever the cucina comes from. It's symbiosis. This dish suits ripe fruity white wines and almost any kind of red as an accompaniment. The generous fruit and aromas of whites like Puglia Bianco, A Mano 2019, The Society's Falanghina 2018, Pecorino Abruzzo, Contesa 2019, Frascati, Principe Pallavicini 2019 or Cirò Greco, Santa Venere 2019 will be able to stand with the creamy dish while refreshing as you go.
Rosés like Alpha Zeta Rosato Veronese 2019 and Brindisi Rosato Vigna Flaminio, Vallone 2019 are the bridge between red and white, while you can really take your pick with the reds.
Try the ever popular The Society's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2018 or Rosso Piceno, Saladini Pilastri 2018 from Abruzzi and Le Marche respectively. The Dogliani, Luigi Einaudi 2018 or Dolcetto d'Alba, GB Burlotto 2018, both from the home of the Slow Food movement in Piedmont, have the fruit and fibre to work with the meat and mushrooms, while the Brindisi Rosso Vigna Flaminio, Vallone 2017 offers an open-handed generosity that equals the dish.