"I didn't expect this sauce to taste nearly as good as it did."
Call it what you will: ragu, bolognese, or Sunday night dinner—nothing satisfies like a plate of pasta with a meaty red sauce. But a jar of tomato sauce and a pound of ground beef isn't what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the long-simmered, dark red and beautifully reduced version, the one with browning meat and finely chopped carrots, celery, and onions that's been cooked down with any combination of wine, milk, and pureed tomatoes.
I make a giant batch of this all-day meat sauce every so often to keep in the freezer for a quick weeknight meal. Though it takes more than a few hours, the finished sauce is always worth the time. But how would it taste after being prepared in a pressure cooker? Lorna Sass's recipe for Tomato Sauce with Hot Pork Sausage from Cooking Under Pressure seemed to be a pretty good candidate for my red sauce experiment.
The recipe calls for fresh hot Italian sausage but since I wasn't feeling up to a trip to my sausage purveyor, I decided to mix up a batch of my own using ground pork, chile flakes, parsley, and fennel seeds—the best approximation I could come up with outside the sad links available in the meat aisle.
If you aren't too keen on spicing your own sausage mix, Sass's recipe can be made with ground beef, veal, or even without any meat at all, just make sure to season accordingly.
The first part of the instructions read almost identically to any other bolognese recipe: saute onions and garlic then add and brown your meat. After that, things gear more towards pressure cooking. The pan is deglazed with water and carrots, celery, and spices are added. Diced tomatoes and a big helping of tomato paste go right on top of the meat and vegetables, and the lid is locked and sealed.
A brief 20 minutes of high pressure cooking later, the pressure seal is broken and the sauce is ready to be tasted.
Every recipe I've tried this week has been a success but I didn't expect this sauce to taste nearly as good as it did. It had all of the sweetness of tomatoes that have been cooked for hours, the porkiness where you know the meat is definitely sausage, and the thickness that coats even the thinnest pasta.
If there was anything missing it certainly wasn't in the cooking. Next time I might add some wine for acidity but aside from that, this recipe is genius—thick and concentrated tomato and meat flavors that are just waiting for pasta and a grating of parmesan.
And the best part? There are plenty of leftovers, happily waiting to be reheated.
Win Make it Fast, Cook it Slow
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Cooking Under Pressure to give away this week.
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
- 1 pound fresh hot Italian sausage, casings removed if necessary
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Three 28-ounce cans tomatoes, coarsely chopped, including juice
- 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the cooker. Saute the garlic and onions for 3 minutes, adding an extra tablespoon of oil if needed. Stir in the sausage, breaking it into small pieces with a spoon. Brown the sausage thoroughly. Stir in the water, taking care to scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the cooker. Add the celery, carrot, oregano, rosemary, fennel seeds, bay leaves, and salt.
Pour the tomatoes on top and plop tablespoons of the tomato paste over them. Do not stir.
Lock the lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Let the pressure drop naturally or quick-release by placing the cooker under cold running water. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to release.
Remove the bay leaves. Stir well, and adjust the seasonings, adding black pepper to taste. If the sauce is too thin, boil it uncovered until reduced to the desired consistency. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze until needed.