March 25th, 2013
Growing up in New Jersey, you eat a lot of breaded chicken parmesan (heavy on the mozzarella!) and chicken marsala. At least I did. In the years since my departure from the Garden State, I’ve come to love classic Italian cooking, a more delicate and restrained origin of the kind of Italian-American cooking I grew up with. Still, nothing brings me comfort like those two chicken dishes, especially when served with a side of slightly overcooked linguini topped with a ladle plop of marinara. It takes me home, which is why I was drawn to a version of this recipe for Pappardelle with Sausage Marsala the minute I saw it.
About a month ago, I noticed an email come in from FoodieCrush, a fab online food magazine that’s as mouthwatering to look at as it is to read. This one caught my eye with mention of Marsala. I focused in: sausage and pappardelle, too. This was worth looking at right away.
As I scanned the ingredients of Heidi’s recipe, I remembered the many chicken marsala meals of my childhood. How had I never cooked with Marsala wine before?! Though I have no recollection of buying any, I found a bottle of the sweet fortified wine in my liquor cabinet and resolved to make a version of Heidi’s dish.
My version of the dish is very similar to the one you’ll find posted on FoodieCrush; I tweaked just a couple of things like using roasted red pepper instead of fresh and thyme instead of rosemary. Whichever version you opt to make, you’ll be happy with the results. It’s a simple meal that comes together in just a little more time than you need to cook the pasta and is packed with bold (nostalgic!) flavor. It’s all sweet and earthy from the Marsala, with bright pops from the tomatoes—totally delicious.
Pappardelle with Sausage Marsala
slightly adapted from FoodieCrush
(can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
1 lb pappardelle pasta (fresh is preferable)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1″ slices**
1 8-ounce package white button or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and cut into 1/2″ slices
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup sweet marsala wine
1 1/4 cup cream
1/2 pint (8-ounces) roasted red peppers, sliced
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, washed
Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Bring one gallon of water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add pasta, stir, then begin measuring cooking time; cook pasta 2-3 minutes fewer than indicated on the package. Drain pasta saving 1 cup of cooking water. Do not rinse the pasta; set aside. (You can pre-cook pasta up to 2 days in advance.)
2. In the meantime, make the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large, high sided skillet set over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; sauté until the garlic is soft and fragrant and the onions translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add sausage and continue cooking until pieces are just cooked through, another 4 minutes or so. Add mushrooms and thyme and cook until the mushrooms begin to soften and release moisture, about 3 more minutes.
3. Add a splash of marsala to deglaze your pan, scraping any brown bits that have formed in the pan. Then add the remaining marsala, cream, roasted red peppers and tomatoes. Bring the sauce just to the edge of a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and the tomatoes soften.
4. Using tongs, gently add pappardelle to the sauce pan in batches, being careful to coat one batch of pasta before adding the next. The moment it seems like there won’t be enough sauce (like the pasta is absorbing it all), add reserved pasta cooking water a tablespoon at a time. Once all the pasta is tossed with a sauce that is at your desired consistency, take the pan off of the heat and gently fold in grated Parmesan to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Finish with a drizzle of high quality olive oil. Serve immediately with more grated Parmesan on top.
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters, I recommend this beginning at 10 months old since the recipe is on the heavy side with lots of cream and calls for a fortified wine. It should be noted, though, that all but traces of the alcohol in the Marsala will cook off. Should you decide to share this with your little eaters, I suggest cutting lightly sauced pasta into age appropriate bites and throwing in some small, cut up pieces of mushroom, cherry tomato and sausage, if your babe is eating meat.
**Note: If using fresh Italian sausage, which I suggest, it may be hard to cut the raw links into 1″ pieces. If you find that this is the case, cook the links first, before you start sautéing the onions and garlic. Once they are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan and cut the links into 1/2″ pieces. Resume at the beginning of step 2, skipping the olive oil so long as the sausage has released enough fat to cook the onions and garlic.