Orecchiette With Italian Sausage and Peppers
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage (or buy links and remove from casing)
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup Castelvetrano green olives, sliced (or another good quality green olive of your choice)
½ cup sliced pepperoncini
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 (14-ounce) can Italian cherry tomatoes, such as Mutti
8 quarts water, to boil pasta
⅓ cup kosher salt, for pasta water
1 pound orecchiette pasta (or another short-shaped pasta of your choice)
12 whole fresh basil leaves
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon lemon juice
- In a large skillet, add extra-virgin olive oil and turn to medium-high heat. Add Italian sausage to the pan in small pieces. Let sausage brown, while breaking up with a wooden spoon into smaller crumbles. Once the sausage is fully browned, remove to a small plate or bowl. Drain off most of the rendered fat, leaving just a thin layer in the pan.
- Reduce heat to medium, add red onion, olives, pepperoncini, and chili flakes, cooking for 1 minute. Add canned cherry tomatoes and stir, letting the liquid reduce slightly. Add cooked sausage back into the pan and turn off heat until pasta is ready.
- Boil a large pot of water with the salt. Add the orecchiette and cook for two minutes less than the pasta package calls for, then drain (without discarding the pasta water). Add the pasta to the sauce skillet with the sausage mixture. The orecchiette should still be firm in the center.
- Add one cup of the pasta water to the skillet to begin marrying the pasta and sauce together. With the heat on low, stir and then cover for two minutes, gently moving the pan over the burner every 30 seconds. Remove lid, stir in the basil, Pecorino cheese, lemon zest and juice, and finishing extra-virgin olive oil.
- When the pasta is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and serve immediately.
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