Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spicy Sausage Ragu in the Slow Cooker

I'm back from falling off the face of the earth!  I was super pregnant at the time of my last post.  As a result of having a new baby around, most of my dishes over the last two months have been of the "what can we make really, really fast?" variety.  Most of them were tried and true quick favorites.  We also had a freezer full of pre-made food donated by friends and family, which is *awesome,* especially during the first few weeks when painkillers and coffee are food groups.

Since I'm on maternity leave, I decided to experiment with my slow cooker.  I bought a copy of The Italian Slow Cooker and used a recipe from it for the first time last week.  Generally, if the first recipe I try from a new book in my cookbook army isn't very good, it takes a long time for me to use the book again, I guess I'm judgy that way.  The Spicy Sausage Ragu was a huge success!! Not only did my husband and I love it, there was enough left to freeze!

It doesn't look pretty, but trust me it tastes fantastic!!

This dish can be a little work or a lot of work, depending on whether you can buy sausage without casings.  I went to our local Safeway instead of Wegmans, so I was SOL.  I bought sausage with the casings because that was my only option, and removed them myself.  Aside from that, preparing to toss everything in the slow cooker takes relatively little prep work: chopping some red onion and garlic and browning the sausage.

This ragu is quite spicy, probably because I added a little extra spicy sausage.  One pound was five sausages and instead of using two and a half, I used three.  I would make it that way again, I really liked the spiciness. The addition of the heavy cream didn't kill the spiciness but it did make it a very rich sauce.  The recipe made ~10 cups.  I froze a little over half of it but haven't tried to reheat it yet.  Since there's cream in it, I won't be able to do it in the microwave.  I'll do it slowly on the stove, and maybe add a bit of milk or some more cream to help it out.  Hopefully it won't separate!  If it does, next time I'll take out what I want to freeze before I add the cream and adjust the ratio accordingly.

The book recommends serving it over large pasta like rotini or rigatoni. I used penne because that's what I had in the pantry, I think it worked fine. I don't think it would work well with spaghetti, fettuccine, etc. at all.

Spicy Tuscan Sausage Ragu
From The Italian Slow Cooker
Makes ~10 cups


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed
1/2 pound hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with their juice, chopped
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1 cup heavy cream


1) Remove the sausage casings if you need to.  Then, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Crumble the sausage into the skillet and brown.  Use a spatula to break up any large chunks of sausage.

2) Add the red onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.  Add the red wine and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet.

3) Dump the contents of the skillet into the slow cooker.  Add the tomatoes and tomato puree and salt to taste.

4) Cover the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 5 hours.  Then stir in the cream and cook for 1 hour, still on low heat.

5) Serve over pasta of your choice.

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