I’ve been trying out a Christmas present this week; Classico e Moderno, a new Italian food cookbook from Michael White. It’s a great cookbook which is split into two parts, half contains classic Italian preparations and the other half contains his modern takes on them. For Sunday dinner this week I handed the book to Cheryl and she picked out a pasta dish from the modern side containing duck sausage and Brussels sprouts.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog (hi mom) I don’t think it’s any secret my favorite cuisines to cook at home are Italian, French, and some Spanish. I especially love the simplicity which can be found in Italian food. At its heart I think Italian cuisine is all about taking just a few simple ingredients and turning them into a delicious dish. Few ingredients however does not necessarily mean easy. It’s one thing to throw them all together but you have to execute properly as well as marry ingredients which work together.
Anyway, from my experimentation this week I can report the recipes in Classico e Moderno are very Italian incorporating those few simple ingredients, are user-friendly, and not least of all extremely delicious. There is a lot of balance in this pasta dish: salt from the sausage and cheese, sweet from the Marsala, and some earthiness from the Brussels sprouts and sage. The recipe calls for a pasta I’d never heard of, gramigna, which looks like a very thin tubular curled pasta. I substituted in cavatelli since I had some in the pantry and wasn’t about to run down to Eataly on a Sunday afternoon to see if they were making gramigna (I bet they have it though! Chicagoans, have you been to Eataly yet? It’s pretty damn amazing). The cavatelli worked just fine as a canvas for this sauce.
You can make this pasta dish with store-bought duck sausage if available, just remove the sausage from the casings, however if you have a grinder I strongly urge you to make this from scratch. There’s no casing stuffing involved, you’re just making a loose sausage. Grind and mix. It is well worth it, very easy, and you’ll feel great knowing you just made sausage. While you might be tempted to use sweet or hot pork sausage I don’t think you should. At least not the first time you try this recipe. The duck sausage has a more delicate flavor so it balances nicely with the garlic, cheese, and Brussels sprouts and doesn’t overpower them. Remember, when using just a few simple ingredients you need to make them work in harmony to sing!
Cavatelli with Duck Sausage and Brussels Sprouts (makes 4-6 servings) adapted from Michael White’s Classico e Moderno
- 1 lb duck sausage removed from casings (if you want to make your own see below)
- 2 cloves of garlic sliced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 10 sage leaves, sliced
- ½ C dry Marsala
- 2 C shaved/thinly sliced Brussels Sprouts
- ¾ C chicken stock
- 1 lb dried cavatelli
- Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
Over medium-high heat on the stove brown the duck sausage in a large sauté pan or heavy bottomed pan. When the duck sausage has browned stir in the onion and garlic and cook until soft.
At this point drop the dried cavatelli into the boiling water. Next stir in the sage. Add the Marsala wine and scrape up any bits which have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the Marsala has almost all evaporated, 3-4 minutes.
Add the shaved Brussels sprouts. Season with salt and pepper and add the stock. Bring to simmer and cover. Cook until Brussels sprouts are soft about 4-5 minutes.
Reserve ½-1 C of the pasta water.
Drain pasta, add to the sauce and mix well. Stir in some pasta water to keep the sauce loose. Shave cheese over pasta and serve.
Simple Duck Sausage
- 1 lb duck leg meat, chilled
- 4 oz pork fat back, chilled
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- ¼ C dry red wine
- 1 clove of garlic minced
Cube the duck leg meat and fat back. Combine in a bowl and put in freezer for about an hour.
Using the medium die on your grinder, grind the duck and fat into a bowl.
Mix in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Pour in the wine and knead well to bind the sausage together. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, can be overnight until ready to cook.