This sauce was originally inspired by the classic Italian Bolognese sauce with a dash of my mother’s own ragu from my childhood. the result is neither one or the other, but has become my own unique creation over the years. For me this thick, deep and ever-so-rich meat sauce is one of the ultimate comfort foods, one I will pass on to my children and the powers that be willing, their children as well.
Just the smell of this sauce cooking is enough to give my wife hunger pains. While not as intensive as the classic 7 hour Bolognese, the simmer time of just about 2 1/2 to 3 hours is more than long enough to fill our entire home with the aromas of tomato, basil, oregano and thyme. Just after that the sausage begins to give off the wonderful scent of fennel, all in a wondrous symphony for the senses, and the resulting sauce does not dissapoint.
I prefer to cut links of sausage into roughly 1/2 slices for this dish rather than crumble it in. This gives the meat a bit more tooth, somewhat like tiny meat balls rather than just using meat as a component. Vegetarians may of course substitute an equal amount of cooked bulgar or mushrooms for the meat and use vegetable stock or mushroom stock instead of the chicken stock. I’ve made this combination and it works wonderfully.
- lb cooked pasta, your choice (I prefer whole wheat spaghetti or linguine for this sauce.)
- 1 lb Italian sausage, cut in thin rounds or crumbled (bulk or link, hot mild or sweet, your choice here. I actually prefer turkey sausage for this.)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 roasted red peppers, chopped (jarred is fine, just pull out 2 full skins)
- 1 28 0z. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Marsala (you may substitute sherry or 1/4 cup port wine)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed (if desired)
- Parmesan Cheese for garnish
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook stirring often, until translucent. Add garlic and red peppers and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add tomato paste and cook until it no longer smells "raw", approximately 3 minutes.
- Remove pot from flame and add Marsala. (This is a fortified wine, it can ignite!) Return pot to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.
- Add remaining ingredients, including raw sausage, bring just to a boil, reduce heat until liquid is at a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until reduced by approximately 1/4 volume.
- Check for seasoning and make additions if necessary. Return to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 45 minutes or until sauce has reduced by nearly half and color has Gone from bright red to a deep, rich red color.
- If sauce is too thick, add a ladle of pasta water or a little more chicken stock and simmer an additional 15 minutes to allow flavors to combine. If too thin, simply simmer for a little longer with a tablespoon or so of pasta water added. It will thicken nicely.
- Serve over pasta with slivers of Parmesan cheese.
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
Nothing, really. this is my Go-To ragu recipe. I’ve been making this sauce or variations on it, for the past 20 years. To this day I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it, so I must be doing something right.
If you would like to freshen the flavors, stir in a handful of fresh parsley or basil just before serving.
Links to other recipes like this: