I used to run the kitchen at Factory Kitchen in DTLA. Our lunch business was always hit-or-miss, but we always sold a lot of our paccheri with pork sausage and spicy tomato passata.
Paccheri is a long tube pasta, similar to rigatoni without the ridges.While I love that pasta, I don’t think it’s easy to find in grocery stores. If you can find it, I highly recommend it. Gemelli is an s-shaped noodle. Whatever you pick, make sure it’s a pasta that can hold up to a rustic, chunky sauce (no long noodles, and definitely no penne!).
Tomato passata is essentially just high-quality canned tomatoes run through a food mill (think “passed tomatoes”).
In case you didn’t know, Italians are very serious about their food; some (read: I) might call them obsessive. Italians have regional designations and laws for their food the same way the rest of the world has designations for wine. Sugo is similar to a ragu or bolognese. Depending on who you ask, it is usually a tomato-based sauce.
Here’s my take on Factory’s most popular lunch dish!
This dish can be made up to 4 days in advance, which makes it a great option for a quick weeknight dinner, or for preparing in advance for a large party.
1 lb Italian pork sausage (preferably homemade)
1/3 c EVOO
1 ea small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 ea carrot, peeled, finely chopped
2 ea ribs celery, finely chopped
3 ea garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons sage leaves, minced
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
1 tsp red chili flakes (omit if you do not like heat)
1 1/2 c dry white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juice reserved
Salt and pepper, to taste
Note: If you don’t have the time to chop up the vegetables and herbs finely, cut them into big chunks and toss them into a food processor (I won’t tell anyone). I still recommend doing the herbs by hand as they will oxidize and blacken really easily if they go through the food processor. I have a step-by-step video on how to make this recipe (I suggest you check it out, if only for the info about which wines to use in recipes). You can check it out right here.
In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, heat EVOO over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add celery, carrot, onion, and a two-finger pinch of salt and cook for 5-7 minutes. Do not brown the vegetables. If the vegetables start to brown, turn the heat off immediately.
Add garlic and chili flake along with a few grinds of black pepper. Stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Next, add sage, rosemary, and thyme. Give it a good stir and let it cook low and slow.
At this point, I prefer to crush the tomatoes by hand while the vegetables and herbs simmer (as a chef, I love to be efficient, so doing this step cuts down overall prep by about 5 minutes #knowledge). You want to see nice big chunks of tomatoes. We aren’t making Prego over here. This rusticity is the beauty of Italian cooking.
After crushing the tomatoes, the vegetables should be giving off an insanely delicious aroma. At this point, you can add the tomato paste and white wine. Give it a good stir so the paste dissolves into the wine.
Let the mixture come up to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the pork sausage in 5 or 6 large chunks, similar to something like a meatball. However, we are NOT making meatballs here. Think of it as more of a braise, a long slow cook time with a larger chunk of meat.
Since this sugo is very delicate, it is best not to sear the meat before placing it into the pot.
Add the tomatoes, bring the pot to simmer, then reduce the heat to low and put the lid on. Cook for about 30 minutes. Remove the lid, maintain the simmer, then cook for an additional 30 minutes. If you like a thicker sauce, you can simmer the mixture for the entire 60 minutes without the lid.
The mixture should have reduced considerably and the vegetables should be extremely soft after reducing.
Taste and adjust for seasoning. It’s important to not add too much salt after the initial vegetable sweating until the end of the cooking process. If you do, you might over-season the sauce by the time it reduces.
At this point, you have two options. Cool off the sauce and store it for a later date or start cooking the pasta.
Pork Sugo with Gemelli Pasta
This recipe yields 3-4 servings.
3 cups pork sugo, prepared
1/2 lb gemelli pasta, dried
1 cup pecorino romano, finely grated with a microplane (1/2 cup if you’re using a box grater)
1 cup parmigiano reggiano, finely grated with a microplane (1/2 cup if you’re using a box grater), plus more for garnish
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons italian parsley, minced
EVOO for drizzling
Bring a pot of 4-6 quarts of heavily salted water to a boil. While the pasta is boiling, grate your cheeses.
Add the pasta to the water, maintaining a full boil.
A note about cooking restaurant-quality pasta:
A rough estimate for heavily salted water is 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water. It should taste like ocean water.
Place the sugo in a pan large enough to comfortably fit the pasta and the sauce. Heat the sauce over medium heat with the butter and break up the pork into bite-sized pieces. In my opinion, if you do this while cooking the sugo, the pork dries out and becomes rubbery, so I prefer to do it just before serving and not while making the large batch of sauce.
Allow the sauce to reduce for a couple of minutes, then add 1/4 cup of the chopped parsley. Turn off the heat and wait for the pasta to finish cooking.
Toss the pasta into the pan along with the cheeses and a spoonful or two of pasta water. It might take up to 1/4 cup or more of pasta water to make the sauce thin enough to coat every nook and cranny of the pasta.
Plate it up! Spoon the mixture evenly across 3 or 4 plates, top with a little freshly grated reggiano, EVOO and parsley.