A couple of weeks ago Matthew (ham enthusiast) came across a wee corner of a magazine which said that Kitchen Italia (fancy Italian restaurant chain), was running a pasta competition. Of course this meant that I/we had to enter so I came up with some initial ideas and decided that we should knock out a few dishes and get a few folk to taste them.
At that point (some point on a Saturday morning) Ceri entered the room and said that she fancied a night of Italian feasting and that she had invited some friends round. So it was settled, Jules would provide the apperitivi, I would make an experimental pasta dish as the first course and Ceri would follow it up with a tasty main course to remember, with some good Pinot Grigio to wash it all down (actually I cannot remember if the wine was Italian or not but I like to think it was).
The ingredients for the pasta dish that were circulating in my head were the following: Italian sausage (super tasty and comes rolled up in a big curl like a snail), courgettes (because they are amazing), juniper berries and cider. Initially I was thinking wine but then after looking into the cupboard and spotting a bottle of Weston’s Organic we decided that cider was the way to go – a fusion of Italian and West Country cuisine could only be good!
After playing around with some ideas, a big frying pan and several things on the spice rack, a rather nice aroma seemed to be materialising. I cooked some fresh pasta, dished it up, and despite the sauce being a little bit runny the overall flavour was a good one! Everyone said it was tasty; I like to think they would say if it was not. So, a couple of tweaks later and perhaps some new guests to do the taste test and I decided we’d be there.
In the meantime Ceri had gone to our local fishmongers (some of whom are rather attractive in the eyes of certain young ladies) and purchased some fine tuna steaks which she served up with a fantastic relish.
Skip forward a few days, maybe two weeks and I was at home preparing lunch for mum, sister, ham enthusiast, cousin, auntie P, uncle D and big Al. This was round two of the sausage pasta recipe experimentation. Obviously far more confident, I made the recipe and was then quite disappointed with the result which was far too runny (over excited with the cider quantity) and seemingly tasteless. So that evening we perfected the sauce to make it, thicker, richer and really quite nice. Here’s the recipe if you fancy giving it a go. If you want to check out the Kitchen Italia site you can now find the recipe on there too!
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
14 juniper berries, crushed with the side of a knife
400g Italian sausages, sliced
150ml West Country cider (I used Weston’s Organic)
3 tbsp crème fraiche
2 courgettes, cut into thick rounds and then sliced into batons
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
50g Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Cut the courgette into batons and salt in a colander for 5-10 minutes.
In a large frying pan heat the olive oil and add the crushed garlic and juniper berries. Throw in the sliced sausage and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Pour in the cider and continue to cook for 6-8 minutes, allowing the cider to reduce by approx half. Stir in the crème fraiche and continue to simmer for a few minutes.
Add the courgette batons and the oregano and cook for 5 minutes, season and stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve with extra grated Parmesan if you like your cheese and fresh tagliolini.