This is a wonderful recipe; one of my very favorite dishes. Do not eliminate the heavy cream; I have already cut the amount in half. You can use whatever pasta shape you like; Marcella specifies shells, and she's right about this - the bits of sausage nestle perfectly inside "large" (not the size you can stuff) shells. However, I have recently started to use Pasta Setaro on a recommendation from Luisa, (and you know you can always trust Luisa), but I haven't found Pasta Setaro in that shape. So recently I've been using Pasta Setaro mezzi rigatoni or mezzi millerighe (almost the same as the rigatoni) that I get from BuonItalia. If you find another shape that works well, let me know.
The first time I ever ate this, Tracey and I cooked dinner together at what was then her new house. We sat in her kitchen, which is surrounded by windows on three sides, and it was like sitting in a little treehouse.
All the windows were open, it was raining, and we drank a fabulous bottle of wine Tracey had been saving since her graduation from Augustana. The night she graduated, we drank so much champagne to celebrate, we didn't get around to drinking this wine.
When we started to eat this pasta , we literally did not say one word. It was so good we were speechless!
½ pound mild pork sausage (Italian without fennel is best if you can find it)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
⅔ cup canned Italian peeled plum tomatoes, cut coarse, with their juice
¼ cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 pound pasta shells, mezzi rigatoni, or mezzi millerighe
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
If the sausage is in a casing, squeeze it out onto a plate. Break the sausage meat into pieces about the size of a walnut.
Heat a saute pan or saucier, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Let the oil get hot, and add the nuggets of sausage meat. (If you add the sausage to oil that is already hot, it won't stick.)
After the sausage meat is lightly browned, add the garlic, and cook briefly - for about 30 seconds. You want the garlic to color a little but not brown. Add the tomatoes, stir, and cook at a gentle simmer.
After about 20 minutes, when the fat separates from the other juices and floats free, add the cream, and turn up the heat. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, stirring frequently until the cream is incorporated and reduced. Add salt. Turn off the heat, and stir in the chopped parsley.
While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain the pasta, add it to the pan the sauce is in, and toss with the sauce. Turn off the heat, and add the freshly grated cheese; toss again, and serve immediately. Let everyone add freshly ground pepper to taste at table, if desired.