There are countless recipes out there involving tomatoes, sausage, and some kind of pasta. It's an Italian staple, and I've seen many varieties from region to region. But flipping through Lidia Bastianich's wonderful book Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, I was drawn to this particular for bucatini con salsicce that used pickled peperoncini for the spicy kick. I knew I could trust the woman many might call the presiding Grandmother of Italian Cuisine.
Most recipes in search of spiciness call for the ubiquitous red pepper flakes (known variously as hot red pepper flakes, chili flakes, or crushed chili flakes), which are fine, but I happened to have a jar of pickled pepperoncini in my fridge itching to get used. Though they are Greek rather than the "Tuscan-style" the recipe calls for, they were pretty close. I loved the way they infused the sauce with a different kind of spiciness: bright and slightly briney. The addition of white wine, which is evaporated and absorbed into the sausage, gave the dish even more flavor and balance.
- 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, preferably without fennel seeds
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup whole pickled peperoncini, drained, preferably Tuscan-style
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 3 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 pound bucatini (or another long pasta)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese, plus more for passing
Slit the casings of the sausages lengthwise and turn the meat out into a bowl. Break it up into small pieces with your hands, then add the wine and toss until the meat is moistened. Remove the stems and seeds of the peppers, then slice into 1/4-inch rings, crosswise.
Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic slices and cook until golden, then add the sausage mixture. Spread it out, breaking up any clumps, and cook until the moisture has mostly evaporated. When the sausage begins to render and sizzle, add the pepperoncini and cook for an additional minute or two.
Pour in the tomatoes plus 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the liquid dramatically reduces by half, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. It should be a thick enough consistency to cling well to the pasta.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. When it it done cooking, drain and add it to the skillet, reserving some pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta and sauce together for another minute, adding pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Turn off the heat and transfer to bowls. Top with Pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.