Growing up in an Italian American family, every Sunday meant pasta was on the menu. My grandmother and mother could come up with an infinite amount of pasta recipes to keep us from getting bored. The smells were incredible. It is easy to keep the tradition alive, if you can keep the process simple. Which is what I have done with my Sunday dinner recipe for pasta. I hope you enjoy it.

Tomato Sausage Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

1/2 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 (26-oz) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits

Pasta

1 lb spaghetti twists or other short pasta
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Brown the sausage on all sides and remove to a plate to cool. Then cut into ¼ inch slices.

Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes to the skillet, stir for a minute. Add tomatoes, sliced sausage and salt and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil leaves.

For the pasta:

Cook the pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of well salted boiling water, uncovered, until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the sausage sauce. Cook for a minute.

Pour pasta into a large serving bowl, dollop with tablespoons of the warmed ricotta with and serve with the grated cheese.

Notes:

The sauce can be made ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered, up to 5 days or frozen in an airtight container for 2 months.

You can also turn this dish into a baked pasta casserole:

Add 8 oz cubed mozzarella cheese to the ricotta.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add 1 cup of the sausage sauce and toss to coat with the pasta.

Spoon the pasta into an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta-mozzarella mixture on top.

Gently fold some of the ricotta mixture into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should still have pockets of ricotta.

Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top.

Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Italian Garden Salad

Ingredients

1 head of Romaine Lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup Italian Olives

Italian Salad Dressing

Seasoning mix:

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt

Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oi
2 tablespoons seasoning mix

Directions

For the salad dressing:

Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mix in a small jar.

In a mixing bowl whisk the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix together. Whisk in the olive oil.

Combine the green salad ingredients together in a salad bowl Add some of the dressing and mix well.

Taste the salad to see if if needs more dressing or salt and pepper. Reserve any leftover seasoning mix and dressing for another salad.

Sourdough Ciabatta

2 large loaves

Ingredients

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour

Directions

Mix the yeast with the flour.

In an electric mixer bowl combine the milk, olive oil and salt with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour, a cup at a time, until you have a dough the consistency of drop-cookie batter.

Switch to the dough hook and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces.

Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place each loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. With a serrated knife, make three slashes in the tops of the loaves, each 1/2-inch deep.

Cover with a damp towel.

Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately 30 minutes. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.
Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

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