Pasta with Italian Sausage & Parmesan

The combination of pasta and Italian sausage typically suggests a heavy tomato sauce — but it doesn’t have to. Sausage, especially used in small amounts, or crumbled, can contribute to a relatively light, almost delicate pasta sauce.

In fact, sausage is truly a gift to the minimalist cook: it’s already self-seasoned, and it imparts a fabulous flavor to whatever you put with it.

The technique is quite simple. You simply begin with a package of bulk mild or hot Italian sausage, or links if that is what you have (simply slit the casing with a sharp knife and peel it off). Then crumble the sausage into melted butter, which adds flavor and a velvety smoothness to the final sauce. Add reserved pasta water and finish with grated Parmesan.

Pasta with Italian Sausage & Parmesan

>> 1 tablespoon butter

>> ½ pound mild or hot Italian sausage (if using link sausage, remove it from the casing)

>> ½ pound cut pasta like ziti or penne

>> ½ cup reserved pasta water

>> ½ cup or more freshly grated Parmesan

>> Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta until it is tender; al dente. Reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a large sauté pan, place the butter over medium-low heat. As it melts, crumble the sausage meat into it, cooking and breaking the bits into small pieces, 1/2 inch or less. Add the liquid, and adjust the heat so that the mixture simmers gently and thickens slightly.

Drain the pasta. Add to the pan with the sauce, adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary. Toss with salt, pepper and Parmesan, and serve.