The word rustica or rustico is synonymous with Italian food and usually means a hearty, rural or an unsophisticated dish. To me, it also means comfort food. Pasta Rustica with Italian Sausage is a romantic way of describing this dish that I have made for many years, adding and subtracting ingredients along the way basically using what I had on hand to fashion a sauce to serve over spaghetti, linguine or penne pasta. I made this dish before I “learned to cook” so in terms of technique, it’s also quite rustic. This sauce is best made the day before for the flavors to meld, but I don’t always follow my advice. Since we are only two people in my household, I still make a huge pot and next day, skim the fat, then freeze the sauce in freezer containers of two to four servings each, so when I’m away babysitting the grandchildren or in Savannah, all my husband has to do is thaw the sauce and boil the pasta. He’s becoming quite adept at cooking rice and pasta!
Pasta Rustica with Italian Sausage
1 pound ground beef
3/4 pound hot Italian sausage
3/4 pound mild Italian sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 green or red bell pepper (or both), diced
1 rib celery, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 (28 ounce) can peeled tomatoes with sauce, preferably San Marzano
1 (24 ounce) jar of pasta sauce-tomato basil or your choice of flavors
1(12-14 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
crushed red pepper to taste, optional
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, crumble ground beef and sausages, stirring to break up in large clumps as you brown it. Add onion,green or red bell pepper, and celery. When meat has browned and vegetables have softened, add minced garlic.
Add tomatoes, pasta sauce and mushrooms. If mixture is too thick, add some water. I sometimes add some water to the jar of pasta sauce, swirl it around to get all the sauce from around the jar. Add dried oregano, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour, adding a little water if sauce is too thick. Skim fat now or when sauce cool, refrigerate and skim fat the next day. Serve sauce over pasta of choice. Liberally grate Parmesan over finished dish.
Note-In past sauces, I have used fresh herbs when available-basil and oregano, minced sun-dried tomatoes and sliced black or green olives.
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