Pasta is a staple in our house. I (Phillip) grew up as a Catholic in Memphis, so I went to the annual Italian festivals, had best friends who were Italian, and watched a lot of Italian mothers work in their kitchens. The key that I learned to making great Italian food is having fresh, quality ingredients. Even if you are using canned tomatoes, get the good ones. We recommend Muir Glen fire Roasted tomatoes. Also, you need some patience. The longer the sauce cooks, the more you allow the ingredients to meld into wonderful flavors. If you have ever made homemade soup, this is why it tastes better the second day because all the ingredients have been mixing together and infusing the soup with more flavor.
Conchigliette is a certain type of pasta, and the shells resemble conch shells. Conchigliette are very small shells and conchiglioni are the large shells. (Don’t worry – we promise we won’t throw too many foreign words at you in this blog.) If you cannot find this type of pasta, whatever you have in your cupboard will work – farfalle, angle hair, or just regular spaghetti. Just a suggestion – if you are watching your weight and calorie/carbohydrate intake, consider using whole wheat pasta, no-calorie olive oil spray, and low fat skim mozzarella for this recipe.
Pasta – What you Need:
- 1 box of Conchigliette pasta (whole wheat optional)
- 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (Muir Glen Fire Roasted)
- 1 14 oz can of tomato sauce (Muir Glen)
- 2 bell peppers chopped (any color – green, red, yellow…)
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1 package Italian sausage, total of 5 sausage links (we like Bob Evans – they are big, like Bratwurst)
- 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese (low fat skim optional)
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced (not the whole cluster! just 2 of the cloves…)
- 1/4 + teaspoon of Truffle oil (more on this later)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil (olive oil spray optional)
Start with the sauce. Over a large pot at medium high heat, add the olive oil until it smokes and moves freely in the pan, about 3 mins. While your pan is heating, cut the onion and bell peppers. Here’s how to cut bell peppers. Start by cutting it in half and removing the stem and seeds.
Then, turning the bell pepper so the inside is facing the cutting board, slice the pepper into 1 inch wide strands, being careful of your fingers! The skin of a bell pepper is slippery, which can cause an accident. If you prefer, cut the bell pepper from the inside to avoid slipping.
Then, chop width-wise, so that your end product looks like this:
Add the diced onion, chopped bell pepper, and minced garlic to the pan. Stirring constantly (so the garlic doesn’t burn!), cook until onion is transparent, about 3 mins.
Take the onion/bell pepper/garlic mixture out of the pot and put aside in a heat-resistant bowl.
Add 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil to pot (or Olive Oil spray). Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add your bell pepper/onion/garlic mixture, and continue simmering. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add truffle oil. While this is simmering, cook your sausage in a separate pan. Suggestion – just like with the previous recipe, add 1/4 cup of water to cook the sausage more quickly and thoroughly, adding a lid to trap in the heat
Cook the sausage until cooked all the way through (about 5 mins). Use a knife to make a small incision into the sausage to check. If there is no pink on the inside, they are ready. Set them aside on a cutting board, and chop into 1 inch squares. Add sausage to the simmering sauce, and taste test. Add more salt/pepper/truffle oil to taste if needed.
Ok, so a quick word on Truffle Oil. This is our new favorite ingredient. It makes so many dishes taste better – pastas, scrambled eggs, soups…try it out in some dishes and experiment. We got our truffle oil at the Spice House in Chicago, IL, while on vacation. It is a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way, so be very careful with portions. Truffle oil is basically made when truffles (a French ‘mushroom’ that is highly prized and very rare) or truffle flavors are infused with olive oil. It is a very strong oil – I can’t stress this enough. Here are some links to get truffle oil.
http://www.thespicehouse.com – it is $12.95 for a 1.86 oz bottle of white Truffle Oil. Type in “Truffle Oil” into the search bar in the upper right hand corner. You have your choice of white or black truffle oil, and other than being .50 cents cheaper than the white truffle oil, I am not sure if there is a difference in taste.
Market Street Grocery Store carries white and black truffle oil as well for $17.69. Central Market has white and black truffle oil, 3.5 oz for $18.99. They also sell the version we have (La Truffiere) for $12.99.
Always add less truffle oil than the recipe calls for, and add if needed – you can always add more, but you can’t take away once added. Here’s what our truffle oil looks like:
Grab another pot, and bring to boil 6-8 cups of water (enough water so that the pasta is completely under water, with about 1 inch between the top of the pasta and the top of the water). Add pasta to boiling water, and cook until al dente, about 9-11 mins. Pour pasta into a colander and drain the noodles, adding a pinch of salt, pepper, and olive oil to the pasta.
By now, the sauce should be done and ready to serve. Put the pasta on a plate, and put a cup or two of sauce on top. Take the shredded Parmesan and mozzarella add on top. Serve and enjoy.