If you do not have the time to make your own artisan pasta, I would like to introduce to you Marcelli Formaggi.* The Marcelli family from Anversa degli Abruzzi, Italy (population 300) established an organic farm in the 1970’s. The region of Abruzzo, considered to be the “forgotten Italy”, is also known as the “Green heart of Europe” due to the rugged mountains and minimal industrialization which have made it inaccessible for centuries. Because of this, the traditional ways of producing authentic Italian cuisine are still being practiced as they have been for centuries.
The Italian government awarded the town the title of “Organic Village” for the preserving a way of life that is a model for sustainable farming. As the title of the company suggests, Marcelli Formaggi are cheese makers as well as pasta and Italian specialty meat producers. Which brings us back to the subject of this dish- the pasta.
Pastificio Masciarelli (est. 1867), located in the small Abruzzo mountain village of Pratola Peligna, is regarded as one the oldest family pasta producers in Italy; having been operated by the same small family throughout their 145 year history. This pasta is the best you can buy without making it yourself. I usually order my pasta in the late winter so I will have a fresh batch available when the spring onions and first tomatoes ripen on the vine.
*I wish to say that I’m in no way affiliated to or being sponsored by Marcelli Formaggi. This post is unsolicited admiration for a truly wonderful product.
Salerina Italiana Caserecci
Cooking pasta Italian style, requires following some simple techniques (don't rush it). Take your time and have everything ready to go. Don't rinse the pasta after it is cooked. Plan on cooking the pasta the final time in the sauce. Save a small amount of your pasta boiling water to add to the sauce. Use quality ingredients. Italian cooking is 100% about finding and using the best, fresh ingredients you can find. Try the artisan pasta from Italy, since this will give you a reference point on quality pasta that you can try to match on your own.
- 1 lb Italian sausage, without casing
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 whole fennel, cored and chopped
- 1 whole white onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pinch red flake pepper
- 1 tbsp basil
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 cup white wine for deglazing
- 1 egg yolk white separated
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup parmesan or romano cheese
- 1/2 cup tomato, diced and drained
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh basil
- 1 lb pasta, cooked to the instructions on the package
- 1 tbsp salt for seasoning the water
Heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Use a ratio of 1 gallon of water per 1 lb of pasta. Add 1 tbsp of salt to the water. Cover and keep hot until needed.
Core and dice the fennel and onion. Mince the 4 cloves of garlic and reserve.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the Italian sausage with the casings removed (if needed).
Cook the sausage until done, while breaking the sausage up into small pieces.
Once the sausage has been cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon (to drain the oil) and keep the sausage in a mixing bowl or platter. Add another 1/4 cup of olive oil to the pan and add the chopped fennel, onion, garlic, oregano, basil and red pepper flake, continue cooking over medium high heat.
Once the vegetables have cooked, add the sausage back to the sauté pan along with any juices that might have accumulated. Next, add white wine to deglaze in the pan. Be sure to use a spatula, heavy kitchen spoon or tongs to get all of the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
Once most of the wine has been reduced, add the drained, diced tomato. Stir to mix in well. Add oregano, basil, tomato paste and heavy cream. Stir and mix thoroughly. Once the sauce just starts to bubble, lower the heat to medium.
Add the prepared egg yolk and whisk in with a set of tongs or kitchen spoon. The egg will help the sauce to thicken slightly. Then immediately add the freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese. For a slightly richer flavor, you can also add 1/4 cup of ricotta. Once the cheese has been incorporated, immediately reduce the heat to low.
Add the pasta to the boiling pot of water and cook for the specified time according to the package.
Once the pasta has cooked, reserve about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. This starchy water will help to further thicken the sauce. Drain the pasta but do not rinse. Add the pasta immediately to the sauce.
Stir the pasta into the sauce, raise the temperature to medium, and cook the pasta in the sauce for 4-5 minutes. Taste the sauce to see if it needs any additional seasoning.
The pasta is now ready to be plated. Feel free to add a drizzle of quality olive oil, torn basil leaves, fennel fronds and a little extra cheese for garnish.
*Depending on the altitude, the salt will not only help season the pasta, but will also increase the temperature that water can be boiled. You won't notice the difference at sea level, but at high altitude this can be helpful. Do not add good olive oil to the water. Oil and water do not mix, so when you drain the pasta the oil goes straight down the drain, doing little to nothing.