For those of you who have been following along, you know that we are growing San Marzano tomatoes in our garden. When we planted two small plants in our garden in the spring, we knew nothing about these tomatoes, aside from the fact that the whole canned tomatoes are some of the more expensive canned tomatoes on the shelf.
One season later, and I can tell you three things about San Marzano. The plants get to be giants, taking over everything in the box. And they produce, and produce and produce. Now that it’s the end of August, most of our other tomato plants have stopped giving us much, while the San Marzano continue to yield a bushel every few days.
That would be great if these were pick and eat tomatoes, but they aren’t for eating straight off the vine. It’s like eating tomato paste. That is not to say they are mushy, but that they taste like tomato paste. Great for soups and sauces. Not so great for sandwiches and salads. In the freezer, I’ve got several containers of tomato sauce just waiting to become pasta sauces and winter soups. With more tomatoes on the way.
I’ve got to tell you, this recipe did not include a dozen fresh tomatoes. But there was a bucket of tomatoes on the prep table waiting to become something, and I figured what the heck. Also, the original recipe used smoked sausage, not raw Italian Sausage. Why the change? We met a farmer at the country market that makes his own sausages. I would assume any good Italian Sausage will be delicious. His was nice and lean, with just the right mixture of pork and fat, with spices you could see and smell even before the sausage was cooked. Again, it was the logical choice. Finally, the original recipe called for a red and orange bell pepper to be cut into thin strips. The price of two peppers for one dish was the same as the price for a large bag of mini peppers, with plenty of peppers for other dishes. That change was a no-brainer as well.
Italian Sausage with Mini Bells over Pasta
12 Roma or San Marzano Tomatoes
1 medium Onion
8 Mini Bell Peppers, assorted colors
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 lbs Italian Pork Sausage 1 1/2 lbs
4 cups Rigatoni Pasta
1 jar Italian Pasta Sauce
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a full boil. This water will be used to blanch the tomatoes for peeling and cook the pasta. By using the same water, the pasta will be “kissed” with the flavor of tomatoes.
Score an “X” in the bottom of each tomato. When the water has come to a full boil, blanch the tomatoes for about 30 seconds, just until the skin begins to curl away from the X. Scoop tomatoes from the water with a slotted spoon or spider ladle. Lay the tomatoes on some paper towels to dry and cool. After blanching the tomatoes, maintain a rolling boil for the water to cook the pasta when the time comes.
While the tomatoes are cooling, peel the onion. Cut in half from tip to root, then lay on the cut side and slice each half into thin half-moon slivers. Scatter to break apart, then set aside.
Cut the tops from the mini bells. Slice into ringlets and set aside. If there are seeds inside, rinse out before slicing. Usually mini bells have little or no seeds.
Cut the sausage into 1/2-inch slices on the bias and set aside.
Peel the skins from the tomatoes. Cut off the ends, discard. Chop the remaining tomatoes into chunks and set aside.
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium, add the sausage slices. Cook until nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Once the sausage is cooked on one side, remove from heat and turn each piece over to brown the other side.
Return skillet to heat, let sausages brown for about 3 minutes. Scatter the onions, peppers and tomatoes over the sausage. Let these continue to cook undisturbed for about 3 more minutes. Stir to blend. Add the pasta sauce, reduce to low and let simmer while the pasta cooks.
To the boiling water, add the pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, then add to the skillet with the sausage-pepper mixture. Stir to blend, then simmer for about 5 minutes until everything is pipping hot.
Place pasta dish on a large serving platter or bowl. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese if desired.
This is delicious with a simple salad and some warm bread.