After a rather lackluster twenty-four hours, an odd period of time which produced more questions than answers, a good and rustic Italian meal was needed to lift the spirits. Well actually Sardinian, for I have learned that the people of the island of Sardinia are a proud, stubborn and independent race who do not really consider themselves as Italian. Now I have to confess that I have never visited Sardinia, but learned the vital importance of such cultural and political opinions while enjoying a private "run ashore" in Catania, Sicily, with the commanding officer of HMS AVENGER. The friendly and vocal Sardinian at the next table was far from sober (as his wife kept scolding him!) but I recall that Nigel and I were also on our second bottle of wine, so who were we to criticize? At the end of the evening, after several brandies, we all stood up unsteadily, toasted the Queen, the Pope, and the great island of Sardinia, and made our separate ways home, safely to house and ship.
I did not know this until recently, but saffron was not only a major part of the Sardinian economy for the last 4000 years, but continues to produce nearly half of Italy's crop. That's what makes this sauce special - if a little expensive! The recipe is not mine, but culled and adapted from La Cucina Italiania. (Compulsive reading and cooking.) It will serve four hungry people easily.
Take a pound of the best sweet Italian sausage available. I drove to Villa, East Hampton for mine. With a sharp knife cut open the casing and remove all the meat.
Get Big Pan! Saute a finely chopped onion in extra virgin olive oil until soft, with a couple of bay leaves thrown in.
Add the sausage meat, mashing and breaking up with a spoon. Cook, stirring often, for about ten minutes. Then splosh in 3/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup dry white wine. Next, crush between the fingers about half a teaspoon of saffron. (That's the expensive bit. If it's good saffron it will cost more than the excellent sausage! But the taste and aroma! Oh my!) Reduce. Then pour in a large (28oz) can of whole tomatoes. Break them up with a spoon and simmer the whole thing for about an hour.
Serve with whatever pasta shape you choose. With red wine. And more...
After the meal (and there were no leftovers) I'm feeling a little more content, and reminiscing about those days in HMS AVENGER. More stories to tell!