Today I share with you one of our family's favorite pastas, that has, quite frankly, fallen off our radar this winter. Perhaps it is because I prefer to make it in August, when I buy bags full of ripe, juicy tomatoes at the Farmer's Market, and make a triple batch, and freeze it to enjoy when the winter winds howl outside the door. I never got around to it last summer, the whole freezing-ahead bit, and this recipe was overshadowed by a winter full of stews and chilis.
In cleaning out the freezer last week, I stumbled across a package of wonderful, thick-cut bacon we had picked up on one of our trips home from Bemidji, at Thielen's Meat Market in Little Falls. If you ever have a chance to stop there-do. It's a wonderful old fashioned meat counter, with men in white paper hats and blood spattered aprons, ready to pull out some link sausages or a beautiful red steak from the display, and weigh it in front of you, and wrap it in white paper.
The bacon reminded me of this recipe, so I made a batch last night. It's from the Hay Day Country Market Cookbook (a dandy to add to your collection). Enjoy!
Tuscan Tomato and Bacon Sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. sweet Italian sausage (bulk, or slipped out of its casing)
4 strips thick sliced smoked bacon, diced
1 lg. clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 c. coarsely chopped Spanish onion
1/2 c. port (I sub red wine instead)
2 lbs. fresh plum tomatoes or 4 cups good quality canned plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. shredded fresh basil, or more to taste
Heat the oil in a large skillet over med-hi heat. Add the sausage and bacon, saute until sausage is browned and the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain the excess fat from the pan, add the garlic and onion, and continue to cook over med-hi heat until the onion is tender and lightly colored, 8-10 minutes.
Add the port (or wine) and simmer for 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a gentle simmer over med-hi heat and cook, uncovered, until the tomatoes are softened and cooked down, 20-25 minutes. Stir in basil, and serve. Or let cool and store, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to 1 week (provided your refrigerator is running....) or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
I like to serve it over pasta with a sprinkling of fresh parmesan, it is also yummy with a few grilled shrimp tucked on top. Or it can be used as a pizza topping. Another option is to stir in a cup of cooked cannellini beans for a heartier sauce (with extra fiber), or throw in a handful of fresh spinach to up the vitamin content.
If you make it, you will see why I rarely cook just a single batch...