It’s easy for Cork Wine Bar co-owner Diane Gross to pick up her favorite ingredients for this dish: She goes across the street to Cork Market & Tasting Room, where they are stocked.
Piment d’espelette is a spice made from the dried, ground chili peppers of the Basque region in France. It has more sweetness than heat and is available at gourmet kitchen stores such as La Cuisine in Alexandria (703-836-4435) and A&H Gourmet and Seafood Market in Bethesda (301-986-9692).
Servings: 4 - 5
- Pinch plus 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 5 oil-cured Roma tomato halves, coarsely chopped, with some of their oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (9 to 10 ounces total) fresh merguez sausage links, preferably Simply Sausage brand, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces (may substitute Simply Sausage French country sausage or Italian sausage)
- 12 to 16 ounces tomato sauce, preferably Copper Pot Food Co. Blended Late Harvest Tomato Sauce
- 3 to 4 cups chopped fresh spinach, arugula or kale (may substitute 2 cups blanched broccoli rabe; see NOTE)
- 1/3 cup marinated feta cheese, such as Yarra Valley brand (may substitute fresh goat cheese)
- Piment d'Espelette, for garnish (optional, see headnote)
- 8 ounces dried pasta, preferably Rustichella brand strozzapreti (may substitute cavatelli)
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook for about 7 minutes, until al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onion has softened.
Add the oil-cured tomato halves and 1 to 2 teaspoons of their oil. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper to taste. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, then add the sausage and cook for 7 minutes or until the sausage is cooked through. Drain as much of the rendered fat from the sausage as desired.
Stir in the tomato sauce (to taste); reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, so the flavors meld.
Place the greens (to taste) in a large serving bowl, then transfer the still-warm pasta to the bowl. Pour the sauce mixture over and toss to incorporate. Crumble the feta over the top. If desired, sprinkle with piment d’espelette.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: To blanch broccoli rabe, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a pinch of salt and the broccoli rabe. Cook for about 2 minutes or just until the vegetable turns bright green. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
From Diane Gross, co-owner of Cork Wine Bar, Market & Tasting Room in Washington.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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