Sopranos Saucery: Rigatoni with Sausage & Tomato Sauce

I don’t work for HBO but I wish I did. They produce some of the best television out there–better, in fact, than most of the movies that get released these days. I think “The Sopranos” is the best show in the history of television, and I’ve been watching TV a long time. Not only is it a terrific show, it has its own cookbook. Kirk bought it for me for my birthday (and I, actually, bought one for my brother–a big Sopranos fan–a few years ago when it came out. Does he cook from it? Fuhgetaboutit.) I was wary of whether the recipes would come out but now I feel like a jamook: look how well this rigatoni with sausage and tomato sauce came out.

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[If you want to know what a “jamook” is, check out The Sopranos mobspeak dictionary.]

Now look, I don’t want a dead fish in my mailbox–maybe I’m oobatz for telling you this–but I tinkered with this recipe a bit. Not in a huge way but enough that it took stugots. And speaking of stugots, you’ll need sausage:

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The recipe calls for 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage but Whole Foods was out of sweet sausage, so I bought garlic and herb Italian sausage. I initially asked for a pound but the lady started lifting a few sausages and I was like “Madonn’! Too many!” and she said “Marron!” and I said: “Just one sausage, please.”

So I got one sausage (the one you see) and when I got home I cut it out of its casing, cut it up a bit, and sliced up some garlic. This went into a saute pan with some olive oil on medium heat until the sausage was brown:

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[I should note here that the recipe says to do this all in a pot but I like using my saute pan. I realize that makes things evaporate faster, but I like it that way.]

Now comes the issue of wine. The recipe says add 1/2 cup dry white wine but I didn’t have dry white wine. I had this (a birthday gift from last month):

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This is a Malbec from Argentina and I have no idea what that means but the back said it goes great with tomato sauces so I said: “Bella!” and decided to use it. I poured a glass and poured that glass on to the sausage and garlic. You can watch this happen on the following YouTube video:

You let most of the wine evaporate and then add canned tomatoes which you crush by hand. [The recipe says put the tomatoes through a food mill, but c’mon! What do I look like, a mortadella? (You are what you eat!)] Here’s a video of the tomatoes getting added:

And that’s basically it. Add a generous amount of salt, pepper, I added red pepper flakes (which gives it some nice heat), bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and let simmer ’til it’s a sauce: about 30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in a large pot of boiling salted water. It cooks for about 10 minutes–make sure it comes out just al dente. Drain, adding a little pasta water to add to the sauce. [This is my idea taken from Mario Batali’s show: the starch in the water helps the sauce adhere to the pasta later on.]

Tear fresh basil into the sauce:

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[You can see how it cooks down. Ain’t it a beaut?]

Add the rigatoni to the saute pan:

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Toss together with the sauce and that’s it! You pour it onto a plate and then grate some Pecorino Romano cheese on top.

I’m actually late to the Pecorino Romano game. I know Mario and other chefs I admire frequently grate it on their pastas, but I’d been sticking with Parmesan. Now that I’ve tried Pecorino, it’s much sharper and more peppery and, consequently, more alive. It really brings out a dish like this.

So next week, when you watch The Sopranos, try this recipe. It’s either that or the Moe Green Special. Sleep with one eye open, if you catch my drift. Salud!

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