Sausage and peppers - a classic combo, right? However, roasted peppers are not on the list of preferred vegetables for my kids. Now, I'm not a fan of "hiding" vegetables in kid-friendly foods, but, this sauce is a common preparation, so I don't feel like I'm "cheating."
To make the sauce, I used common pantry staples. The first is canned tomatoes. Usually, I keep cans of whole, peeled tomatoes in the pantry, but I was out. I only had cans of diced tomatoes. Other than the fact the tomatoes, are diced, the main difference between the diced version and the whole version is that calcium chloride is added to diced tomatoes. It's added so that the diced pieces of tomatoes retain their shape and firmness. So, if you cook them, they won't break down like whole tomatoes. For certain preparations, this is the result you want. However, for a sauce, I prefer a smoother consistency.
The second pantry staple is a jar of roasted red peppers. Roasting your own peppers is no big deal, but, sometimes it's convenient to have a jar in the pantry. It's very versatile and there are great quality versions available. My favorite version is roasted piquillo peppers. These peppers grow in Spain and you can only get them in jars or cans. Grab a jar if you ever come across them. They are delicious.
To combat the diced tomato's inability to break down into sauce consistency, I pureed the canned tomatoes with the jar of peppers. Problem solved. After browning the sausage, I removed them and set them aside and built my sauce in the same pan, adding diced onions and garlic, then my tomato-red pepper puree.
Baking the pasta with a layer of cheese on top can only improve upon this combo of sauce and pasta. Who doesn't like bubbly, browned cheese?
BAKED RIGATONI WITH SAUSAGE AND TOMATO-ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE
Ingredients: 1 lb Italian sausage, 1 small diced onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2-14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes or 1-28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, 1 jar of roasted red peppers, 1 lb rigatoni or pasta of your choice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, big pinch of sugar, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese
- In a food processor or blender, puree the canned tomatoes and roasted red peppers and set aside.
- In a saute pan, brown the whole links of Italian sausage and set aside. Slice into rounds.
- In the same pan where you browned the sausage, add the diced onions and cook until slightly beginning to brown
- Add the minced garlic and saute for another 30 seconds to a minute.
- Add the puree of tomatoes and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.
- Depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes and peppers, you may have to add a big pinch pf sugar to balance the acidity.
- Simmer for 10 minutes or so.
- Add back the slived sausage and simmber for another 15 minutes or so.
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Cook pasta until just shy of al dente.
- Drain and combine with sauce.
- Transfer to a baking dish.
- Cover with parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
- Bake, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
- Let it rest for 10 minutes, then eat.