I’ve been on vacation from work all week. It has been a lazy kind of vacation to say the least….and as I was lying in bed and watching the news yesterday morning, the weatherman said that there were something like 220 million people dealing with this deep freeze that is currently going on outside my window. Hence, my lack of interest in leaving the warmth of my comforter.
While I was lying there contemplating staying in bed all day, I was trying to decide what to make for dinner. Soup? No..I had just made split pea soup on Tuesday. I knew that I wanted to make something hearty, something that was “honest to goodness, stick to your ribs, keep you warm for the rest of the night” good.
It had to be pasta for sure.
And that’s when I decided on Homemade Pasta Rags with Italian Sausage and Spinach Ragu.
It just so happened that I had a bag of baby spinach sitting in my freezer. You know, I drive myself nuts when I fill my freezer to the brim with leftovers and vegetables that have to be frozen because I can’t bring myself to toss them in the trash. But then I’m so happy when I remember that I have an ingredient like baby spinach in the freezer, and I don’t have to run to the store, or come up with something else to make! Especially on days like these when it’s so cold outside, and I don’t want to leave the confines of my warm house.
I mustered enough energy to get myself out of bed…AND….actually made the bed (I feel so accomplished!) and made my way downstairs to gather everything I needed. This is actually an easy meal to make. If you’ve never tried making pasta from scratch, now is the time to try! I know that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it is to prepare! And honestly, you don’t need a fancy schmancy pasta roller. A simple roller will do just fine. I’ve had mine for years, and I think when I bought it, it was $20. It still works just fine.
This sauce. I love it. There is a touch of spiciness from the sausage and the crushed red pepper, but a creaminess from the butter and cheese. I know that in the recipe I say that the butter is optional, and it really is…but I really do suggest that you do add it to the sauce right before you add the pasta. It adds a whole level of flavor and richness to the sauce that will have you going back for that “just one more bite..”. And I promise, you will.
Life is good. It’s a “Cold days and warm comforters…” kind of good.
- 1 lb bulk hot Italian sausage
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup roasted red pepper (jarred is absolutely fine)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp sugar
- 6 oz bag fresh baby spinach
- 3 tbsp butter, cut into cubes (optional)
- Fresh basil for garnish
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 large eggs
- In a large frying pan, cook the Italian sausage, breaking it into small crumbles with a wooden spoon. Remove the sausage from the pan (reserving the grease in the pan) onto a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
- In the same frying pan, add the onions and garlic, and sauté on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Reduce the heat if they’re browning too quickly. Add the red pepper, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, thyme leaves, tomatoes, and sugar. Simmer on low for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the baby spinach to the sauce, and toss lightly. Add the butter to the top of the sauce right before you add the pasta. Toss lightly so that the butter melts over the hot pasta and into the sauce. Serve with chopped basil and grated Romano cheese.
- Mix the flour and salt, and mound on a clean work surface. Make a well in the center, and add the eggs. Carefully mix the eggs and flour together, pulling more flour in with your hands, and kneading as you go. Don’t worry if it seems crumbly at the beginning, the more you knead, the more it will come together. This will form a stiff dough.
- Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pliable. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes. You will find that after 30 minutes, the dough has softened enough to work with.
- Remove from plastic wrap, and cut the dough into fourths. As you work with each fourth of the dough, make sure that you keep the others wrapped, so that the outside doesn’t form a crust on the outer edge.
- Begin rolling the dough on the widest setting of your pasta machine. Pass the strip at least two times through each width of the pasta machine, ending with the narrowest width, and a smooth strip of pasta. At this point, you can cut the pasta dough into the size noodles you prefer, either by running it through the machines pasta cutter, or cutting them by hand.
- For this recipe, I chose to cut the pasta by hand, cutting it into strips about 1-1/2” wide.
- To cook: Bring a pot of water (plus about a teaspoon of salt) to boil. Add the pasta rags to the boiling water, and cook for about 2 - 3 minutes, or to your desired doneness.