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Five Ingredient Summer Red Sauce with Sausage and Burrata

If you happen to live anywhere other than in one of Brooklyn’s newly constructed buildings that were, quite literally, thrown up within the last 10-15 years, your air conditioning bill is definitely lower than mine. I guarantee it. Maybe you live in a 100 year old farmhouse. Maybe you live in a post-war track home. Or maybe you live in a mansion in the suburbs. It doesn’t really matter, because your utilities are cheaper than mine. You have walls made of wood and stone; I have walls made of Styrofoam. I’m not kidding.

Anyway, because I’m thrifty and feel it maniacal to send $200 to ConEdison each summer month, I usually sweat it out during the day and open all the windows. I like it, too. After living in south Florida for a few years before returning to Happy Valley in central Pennsylvania to finish my college degree, I’m a firm believer that warm weather is much healthier and more enjoyable than gloomy, frigid temperatures. I’ll take humidity over frostbite any day.

But, that’s not to say I’m willing to be a slave to the hot kitchen every night. No no, my friend. If there’s anything I like better than fresh, hot air and a summer breeze, it’s keeping the indoor cooking to a minimum and outdoor grilling to the max. And this is possible even when you have a husband who would eat red sauce and pasta every other night.

Last Thursday, I was looking to make a simple dinner with pantry staples. I had been in Philly for a few days at my mom’s house while my cute-as-a-button husband was off in Kansas City again on a business trip. We both arrived home the day before, although Frank didn’t get in until almost midnight due to Delta’s efficiency at ensuring flight delays. We had unpacked, eaten takeout at 1am for dinner, then struggled not to feel like zombies on Thursday morning. My question to Frank of “how does pas-" was answered with “YES.” Since there’s red sauce running through his veins, he can predict when I’m going to ask about it. After four days in the Midwest, my man was ready for something other than steak and potatoes.

A couple of months ago, I had obliged to his request and bought a pound of fusilli at the market. I really only like to buy pasta if I’m making a baked macaroni, but every once in a while (really, maybe once or twice a year), I’ll pick up a package of those corkscrews and make a few meals out of his favorite pasta shape. I discovered there was still about a quarter pound kicking around our pantry drawer, which made the meal even less laborious on this 95 degree day. I ticked off ingredients for the sauce, picked up a few links of fresh pork sausage and a ball of burrata, then got to work.

Here now, one of the easiest and most flavorful red sauces you’ll ever want to make. Into the saucepan went two tablespoons of bacon fat. Yes, I keep multiple jars of rendered fat in my fridge, and if you aren’t currently doing so, I suggest a major evaluation of your lifestyle. After the fat melted and was seasoned with salt and pepper, I added one finely chopped spring onion. These little guys are sweet and mild, perfectly sized for a smaller batch of sauce. After the onion sautéed to a nice translucency, it was time to add the fresh tomato. I had one large heirloom tomato on hand, which would be the star of this sauce. Heirlooms are an incredible variety; they are generally fruitier and sweeter than other tomatoes because they are not as genetically modified, if at all. Heirlooms grow up to be whatever color they like, and their visual appeal isn’t too shabby, either.

Carefully cutting the flesh away from the skin* and dicing it up, I folded the tomato into the pan, seasoned again and let that cook down just until I had opened the can of tomato puree. Half the can of San Marzano puree, then about two tablespoons of extra concentrated tomato paste. Season again, done! I turned the heat to low, set the pan’s lid just barely offset and waited thirty minutes to give it a stir and remove from heat. I also decided to give my immersion blender a quick whirl through the sauce to smooth it out, just to break up any last tomato chunks.

While Frank started on his commute home from the office, I rounded out the rest of the dinner. I sliced up a zucchini with the shoestring blade on my mandoline, squeezing out the excess water in paper towels. Thinly slicing a shallot, I mixed in red wine vinegar, olive oil and a drizzle of almond oil after seasoning the salad with salt and pepper. Easy peasy.

Brushing the sausages with olive oil, they went onto the grill until just about cooked through. Immediately, I added them to the saucepan to marinate in the sauce and finish cooking. The kitchen was fragrant from the tomato sauce, smoky from the grill just outside and finally burning off some of the humidity.

While Frank washed off the day and changed, I cut the guy a break and turned on the air conditioning. Plating up the pasta with a few links and a decent hunk of burrata, all this meal needed was a few drops of olive oil, some basil from my terrace garden and big glass of red wine. We sat down at the much more normal dinner time of 8:30, just happy to be together (and cool!) We caught up on the week and enjoyed the dishes.

The sauce was great! The bacon lard gave it a savory base with an edge that other fats wouldn’t have provided. The fresh heirloom tomato of course was bright and sweet, and the smokiness from the sausage gave the plate that char and depth which just screams summer. And yes, Frank was glad to see his favorite pasta shape covered in red sauce and cheese. He was home, I was home, and the kitchen was clean and cool. Guess I can’t complain too much, huh?

*Normally I wouldn't bother with discarding the tomato skin, but since this was going to be a quick dish with limited cooking time, I knew the skin might not have enough time to melt and meld into the sauce.

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