Home-Made Spicy Fennel Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Sauced Gemelli
There were years of my life, decades, really, when I was an ace at multi-tasking. A baby on one hip, a preschooler attached to my hem, chasing a 7-year old daredevil while swinging the 'fridge door shut with the other hip; a phone perpetually pinched between my ear and shoulder; a spatula in one hand and car keys in the other; an ever-present symphony of dryer buzzers, oven timers and ringing doorbells; squeezing auto-insurance comparison shopping in between baby's nap-time and big-kid school pickup; soccer, ballet, trumpet, basketball and band practice coordination; meal planning, grocery shopping and taking dinners to the sick and grieving of our community; baking cupcakes at 10 p.m. after some scrunchy-eyed sleepyhead emerged from lights-out saying, "Mom, I forgot... I said I'd bring treats to the class party tomorrow. What can I take?" It was for the most part a fun and well-run, efficient ship.
Ahhh. Those were the days.
Call it aging, call it Being Here Now, or maybe its that my stress-balancing hormones are shot or that I'm living in two places, but my ability to juggle all those balls is slipping away. My thinking is becoming more and more compartmentalized with seperate brain-boxes for family, work, friends, creative pursuits, house (which has several sub-boxes), yoga and vacations. Occasionally the contents of one brain-box want to spill out onto the contents of another, but can easily be swept back into its proper cube again.
I have become a uni-tasker. And, it's not bad. With uni-tasking comes greater focus and presence.
Uni-tasking demands a simplicity which gives me a peace and a smile these days. I still get a thrill out of occasionally preparing tricky and elaborate meals, but straightforward, focused dishes in which the essence of the ingredients shines through without much intervention appeals more and more.
The Stuff Sausage is Made Of
A monk introduced me to homemade sausage some months ago, and I've enthusiastically taken its delicious, uncomplicated goodness from pizza to pasta. The combination of light, simple roasted red pepper sauce, gemelli "twins" and spicy, meaty sausage is simple, delicious, and meets my current uni-tasking ethos.
The sausage recipe is here, and here below is the easy, straightforward sauce.
One Brain-Box at a Time Roasted Red Pepper Saucea swirl of olive oil
one 12 oz. jar fire-roasted red peppers, chopped (Trader Joe's is great)
one 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juices (Muir Glen's Organic brand can't be beat)
5 or 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons each chopped fresh oregano and basil
salt and pepper to taste
In a 3 quart saucepan, lightly saute garlic and onion over medium heat until translucent. Add chopped herbs and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the chopped peppers and diced tomatoes with their juices. Heat just until boiling. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly, then whirl in your food processor until smooth, adding water tablespoon by tablespoon if necessary for a nice light consistency.
To sauce in pot, add 8 oz. hot cooked gemelli. (Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water to thin sauce, if necessary.)
Stir in browned sausage bits. Place in baking dish(es), sprinkle with a little mozzarella (or a lot, if you'd rather) and bake at 375 degrees until bubbly and beginning to get brown toasty spots.
Brandborg 2005 Syrah (Umpqua Valley) was amazing with this meal. This Syrah opens up with inky ripe berry fruit, sneaks into a gentle herbaceousness and ends lushly with the classic Syrah peppery tannic finish. This Syrah has a lot going on (I will say it's anything but a uni-tasker) with it's layers and layers of unfolding complexity. You simply must try it.