Spicy Italian and mild fennel sausage in a rich sun-dried tomato sauce.
To start, first roughly chop the onion. Peel and finely mince the garlic. Over medium to medium-low heat, cook the onions in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Then add the tomato paste and cook another minute or two.
Next, add the crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes and the sun-dried tomatoes. If the sun-dried tomatoes were packed in oil, be sure to drain them first. Add the pepper, salt, oregano, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Stir well.
Let the tomato sauce come to a gentle boil, stirring often. Cover, turn the heat to low and let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Once the tomato sauce has cooked, place a few scoops at a time into a food mill. If your food mill has interchangeable plates, use the plate with medium or large holes.
To prepare the sausage meat, first remove it from its casing and break it up a bit. Finely dice the white onion and mince/crush the garlic.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the oil and the ground sausage meat. Stir the meat to break it up. Pan fry the meat until it just starts to turn brown. Once done, strain the meat to remove any excess oil.
Using the same pot, add a bit more oil. Turn the heat down slightly and add the onions. Cook the onions for a minute or two before adding the garlic. Return the sausage meat to the pot and stir. Add the sun-dried tomato sauce (from Step 1) and mix everything together. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and then turn the heat to low and cover. Let the sauce simmer for 15 to 30 minutes while you cook the pasta. Remember to stir the sauce occasionally, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking or scorching.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the rigatoni and stir to prevent them from sticking together. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, approximately 15 to 18 minutes (or according to the directions on the package).
Once the pasta is ready, drain and return to the pot. Drizzle the pasta with a bit of olive oil and top with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Mix gently before folding in the sauce. Serve immediately with freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly chopped Italian parsley.
You can use any pasta noodle for this dish but the rigatoni noodles stand up particularly well against this hearty and scrumptious meat sauce.
This sauce freezes well.