Charred corn; chilled wine; peaches dripping over the sink—these are all things I associate with summer. Pasta and meat sauce? Not so much. But I’m here today with a dish that changed my mind, and I think it will change yours, too.
When I’m looking for a summery—or, at least, lighter—ragù, I usually head to Sardinia, and in particular a dish called malloreddus alla Campidanese. It’s a meal built on fresh Sardinian pork sausage dotted with fennel seeds, local tomatoes and wine (often the sherry-adjacent vernaccia di Oristano), and saffron. The sauce is simmered for about an hour—the blink of an eye, if we’re talking ragù—before being smothered over small semolina dumplings called malloreddus (in Italian, gnocchetti sardi; similar to cavatelli) that are also often infused with saffron.
This recipe draws on many of those ingredients and an equally short cook time, resulting in a bright, slightly tangy sauce that’s both light and luxurious. And because we’re on the brink of tomato season, I went all-in with the intensely fruity, always-gorgeous Sungold variety to make sure this plate of pasta sings: Hello! It’s tomato time! In that same vein, I’m calling this a sugo (sauce) instead of a ragù since it has a much higher proportion of tomato to meat. Yay summer!
Two quick notes:
I recommend using sweet Italian sausage here. You might know by now that I abide by kosher dietary laws, so pork is off the table (use it if you like it!). I also had trouble finding kosher Italian sausages (made with beef) that hadn’t been pre-cooked, so instead I made my own by seasoning ground beef with a bunch of spices. It worked like a charm! If you’re in the same boat, the recipe and instructions follow at the end of this post.
I’ll admit that I initially intended to pair this sauce with the fusi istriani I made earlier this month. But as I looked into the pot, with its bursting tomatoes and meaty morsels, I knew this dish called for something…bigger. Something with more nooks and crannies. Something al dente. So, at the last minute, I opted for lumache and immediately knew I’d made the right choice. (Use whatever you like—rigatoni and paccheri are great alternatives.)
Sungold, Saffron & Sausage Sugo