Sagne Ritorte with Smoky Tomato Ragu
For the sauce…
The base of this sauce is garlic confit, which is garlic slow-cooked in fat, but this can be substituted for a few cloves of raw garlic. Heat a few tablespoons of garlic confit and its oil (or 3-4 smashed whole garlic cloves in a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil) in a pot over medium heat until sizzling. Add 2 spicy Italian sausages (I used Beyond Meat), break them up in the pan and cook until nicely browned, stirring occasionally, especially to prevent raw garlic from burning. Follow with 1 tablespoon tomato paste and stir to coat. Cook for about 1 minute to caramelize.
Deglaze the pan with about ½ cup water or stock and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 2 pints of halved sweet cherry tomatoes (I used kumato), season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat until they break down and release their juices. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and add more liquid if the pan dries out. Leave the sauce to cook on low heat as you shape the pasta.
Time to shape…
1. Once you’ve made your usual semola/water pasta dough, cut off a section and roll it into a semi-thin sheet (setting 5 on a Marcato hand-crank). Cut the sheet into 1½ centimeter strips.
2. Holding each strip at an angle with one hand, use the palm and fingertips of your other hand to quickly roll the dough backwards so it twists into a spiral. I found it helpful to pinch the end holding the strip to help anchor and provide traction during the twisting motion.
3. Continue the motion until the strip is completely twisted, then bend it in half to form a U shape (you may want to repeat the twisting motion on the other end as well).
Once the sauce has cooked down, stir in 3 tablespoons of tomato ‘nduja (I used City Saucery) or another spice of choice, such as crushed Calabrian chilis. Cook briefly, about 1-2 minutes, so the flavors meld. Finish with 2 tablespoons of butter and adjust seasoning to taste. Top with pecorino cheese and enjoy!