I would have added “simple” to this title, but it’s just too much alliteration. Still, it is a side benefit of another great winter pasta dish. In fact, I feel like I have (I definitely should have) written this one up before, but I can’t find it in any search. So here it is, again, perhaps , for some of you, one of our favorite cold-weather dishes, a family pleaser in any form. It’s also another dish that holds up to whatever you have in your pantry. If you only have sausage and tomatoes, it works. You can use fusilli to equal (if not greater) effect. You can certainly leave out the onion and garlic if you like and the saffron is an added bonus.
But if you want the full measure of this dish, use the saffron. It might be a new (fun! colorful! strange!) ingredient for your kid, who can yellow her palms crushing the pretty threads for you. It adds a gorgeous golden color to the tomato and adds its incomparable flavor to the dish, giving a rather ordinary dish an extra-ordinary twist. I believe I found the original recipe years ago in Food & Wine.
Also, I am certainly not one to keep expensive saffron in my pantry, but Trader Joe’s sells a Spanish version that does the trick nicely and which fits my family’s budget. I’ve also seen something called Mexican saffron, which is probably pretty similar. If you can splurge for the top quality stuff, by all means do. If not, these more affordable versions serve as a great introduction for your family and nice, new addition to your weekly dinners.
Spaghetti with Sausage & Saffron
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 3/4 lb (more or less, 3-5 small links) mild Italian sausage
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 onion (sweet, red, whatever…), sliced thin
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can tomatoes (whole plum or chopped, your choice)
- saffron threads, a generous pinch or to taste
- Sautee bay leaf, onion, and garlic in a few tablespoons olive oil until soft.
- Squeeze the sausage out of the casing, and cook, breaking up the sausage with a fork until the sausage is cooked through.
- Deglaze the pan with a little water (or wine or vermouth if you like).
- Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, and, if whole, use your spoon to crush them.
- When the tomatoes are nicely crushed and simmering, add the saffron threads, crumbling them a little between your fingers. Use enough to get a nice, golden color and stir them in thoroughly.
- Let the sauce simmer over very low heat for 15 or 20 minutes or so, or longer, to incorporate the flavors.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted, water.
- Drain pasta and add to the sauce. Let it simmer for just a few minutes to incorporate the flavors.
- Serve immediately with grated grana, parmesan or pecorino romano.