Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese

Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese

Italian sausages, colourful bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes with a touch of red wine combine to make this flavourful sauce, my version of bolognese – without all the work!

It can be made spicy or not and can easily be adapted to use the sausages whole, to mix sausages with ground beef or to substitute ground beef completely if you prefer making it one of the most versatile recipes in my collection. Just be sure if you’re using them to buy the best tasting Italian sausages you can find. You will need: 

• Vidalia sweet onion, 1 large

• Olive oil

• Red bell peppers, 2

• Orange bell peppers, 2

• Garlic, 3 cloves or more

• Hot Italian sausages, 4

• Sweet Italian sausages, 4

• Dry red wine, ½ cup

• Marinara sauce, 1 jar (I use Rao’s) *

• Wide noodles, e.g. Pappardelle, 12oz

• Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

• Flat-leaf Italian parsley (optional)

Firstly, peel and chop the onion, core, de-seed and chop the peppers, peel and finely chop the garlic, remove the casings from the sausages and set aside.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onion; cook for about 5 minutes until just beginning to soften. Add the chopped peppers, stir to combine, add salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for about another 5 minutes or so or until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add in the sausage meat, stir to combine and cook for a further 10 minutes or so or until the meat is cooked through and all traces of pink have disappeared. (If using whole sausages, brown them separately in a skillet then slice them thickly on the diagonal before returning them to the pot – they may still be a little pink inside but don’t worry as they will cook through as the sauce cooks.)

Turn up the heat to high, add in the wine and sauce and stir through. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes; the sauce will have thickened slightly. Turn off the heat.

Meantime, cook the pappardelle noodles in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the package; drain then return to the pan.

Grate about half a cup of Parmigiana Reggiano directly into the sauce and stir to combine; add the noodles and stir again.  Cover and let sit for about five minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Ladle into bowls, grate over a little extra cheese and garnish with fresh Italian parsley (optional).  Mangiare!

Set aside the leftover sauce, allow to cool then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

The tomato and pepper-rich sauce with Italian sausage infuses the pork with flavour while keeping it tender while it cooks. You will need:

• Pork rib roast, 3-4 ribs (or use chops)

• Olive oil

• Leftover spicy sausage sauce, 2 cups

• White cabbage

• Vidalia sweet onion

• Salted butter

• Fennel seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Season the pork roast with salt and pepper then heat about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and brown the pork well on all sides.  Place into an ovenproof dish (not too large or the meat will dry out); pour over the leftover sauce, cover and put into the oven.  Bake for about 90 minutes or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bones.

About half an hour before the meat is cooked, make Braised Cabbage: Peel off the outer layers of the cabbage and discard, slice the cabbage into inch-thick wedges; remove the skin from the onion and cut into eighths. In a saucepan just large enough to hold both vegetables, add about an inch of cold water then the cabbage and onion.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon each of fennel seeds and salt and a half teaspoon of freshly-ground black pepper, dot generously with butter and cover.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes; almost all of the water will be absorbed and the cabbage and onions will be tender not limp.

Carefully cut the cooked pork roast into individual chops, spoon over the sausage sauce and serve alongside the braised cabbage and onions.


* A word about Rao’s. It is a famous Italian restaurant in New York that only a few people can ever get into to eat; the rest of us have to make do with their line of sauces. They are premium quality and yes, premium priced, but well worth it in my opinion. I would even go so far as to say that if you’re Italian and your Nonni makes sauce from scratch that it won’t be better. Long way of saying, try it!

This week, two sets of very simple recipes that can easily be doubled for a crowd. 

Easiest Oven-Baked, Barbecued Pork Ribs

Easiest Oven-Baked, Barbecued Pork Ribs

Easiest, Oven-Baked, Barbecued Pork Ribs

Technically these are not barbecued at all but just slowly simmered in a tangy, sweet barbecue sauce in the oven.  It’s a taste of summer even when the outside temperatures have started to drop.  

The success of this recipe has more to do with technique than ingredients. Meaning that you don’t have to make homemade sauce unless you want to – in Canada, Bullseye brand has the right ingredients to ensure a caramelized top to the melt-in-your-mouth ribs which is exactly how I like them (in the States I use Stubbs brand). You will need:

• Baby back pork ribs, 2 whole racks

• Barbecue sauce, 1 bottle

• Large roasting pan

• Heavy duty aluminum foil

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (start several hours ahead of when you want to eat the ribs).

Lay the ribs in the roasting pan (I use a disposable foil one) and cover tightly with foil.  Place in the oven and cook for about 90 minutes.  (If you’re doubling the recipe and have two pans of ribs, rotate them halfway through cooking so each pan has time at the top of the oven.)

Carefully remove the pan from the oven (don’t turn it off), remove the foil and transfer the ribs to a large chopping board. Pour away any fat that has collected and wipe out the pan. Return the ribs to the roasting pan and pour over the barbecue sauce; cover tightly with foil and return to the oven for about another 90 minutes.

Turn off the oven and let the ribs sit for up to 3 hours. The ribs will still be hot and the meat literally falling off the bone and can be eaten right away.

Or, if you prefer a caramelized finish, remove the ribs from the oven and pre-heat the broiler.  Carefully transfer the ribs to a chopping board, pour the sauce into a jug, replace the ribs in the pan and baste with some of the sauce.  Place the pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes or so until the top is sizzling.

Cut up the ribs and serve alongside colourful Black Bean Salad.

Reserve leftover ribs and sauce, covered, in the ‘fridge for up to 3 days.

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Black Bean & Corn Salad

You will need:

• Canned Black beans, 1 large can (I use Eden brand)

• Canned corn niblets, 1 small can (I use Green Giant)

• Red bell pepper

• Green onions (scallions), 1 bunch

• Vegetable oil e.g. Canola

• Chipotle chili powder (optional)

• Fresh cilantro (coriander), optional

Rinse and drain the canned beans, drain the canned corn and pour the contents into a large bowl.  Finely chop the red pepper and cut the green onions on the diagonal and add to the bowl. Add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and toss to combine; season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. For an extra kick, add up to about a teaspoonful of chipotle chili powder (regular chill powder doesn’t work). Cover and let sit for an hour or so; toss again just before serving and garnish with fresh cilantro (optional).

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Slaw

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Slaw

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Slaw

You will need:

• Leftover barbecued ribs

• Leftover barbecue sauce

• Crusty buns

• Packet of your favourite brand of cole-slaw *

• Mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s)

• Apple Cider Vinegar

• Vidalia sweet onion, peeled and chopped

• Granny Smith Apple, skin on, chopped

• Raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Remove the meat from the bones of the leftover ribs and place into a saucepan with any leftover sauce; add extra sauce if necessary. Cook at a simmer, covered, until heated through.

Meantime, make Apple Slaw:

Apple Slaw

Pour the cole slaw into a large bowl, add 2-3 heaped spoonfuls of mayonnaise, a splash of apple-cider vinegar, the chopped onion and apple and a handful of raisins.  Stir to combine.  Cover and set aside in the ‘fridge for about an hour or so. Uncover and taste; add extra mayonnaise if it needs it – I like it lightly dressed not goopy but ultimately it’s your choice.

Pile the heated pork and sauce onto crusty buns, add a generous heaped spoonful of apple slaw and enjoy!  A beer or a few would be a great accompaniment.

* If you own a food processor and have the time or inclination, shred fresh white and red cabbages and carrots to make your own slaw.

Baked Bone-in Ham in Coca-Cola

Baked Bone-in Ham in Coca-Cola

Baked Bone-in Ham in Coca-Cola, serves 6-8

Make it for a crowd, for a special occasion (Thanksgiving anyone?) or just a family meal; this recipe is so easy and delicious you’ll want to make it again and again. It comes from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful tome How to Eat and like her I was so intrigued when I first heard about it that I had to try it. The addition of onions tempers the raw sweetness of the Coca-Cola, the cola/onion broth in turn infuses the ham with flavour and keeps it incredibly moist. Just be sure to use a good quality, bone-in-ham, preferably from your butcher. You will need:

• Bone-in ham, 5-6lbs

• Onions, 2 medium, peeled and halved

• Coca-Cola, 2 litre bottle (NOT diet coke)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Place ham in a large roasting pan, add the onions and pour over the coke. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 2-3 hours or until the ham is completely heated through and steam is rising from the pan. Carefully transfer the ham to a chopping board (but do NOT throw away the juices) and allow to sit before carving.

When the cola broth has cooled down, remove and discard the onions. Cover and store the broth and any leftover ham, including the bone, for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Slow-simmered Navy Bean Soup

Slow-simmered Navy Bean Soup

Slow-simmered Navy Bean Soup, serves 4-6

The sweet broth left over from cooking the ham is too good to waste so here it forms the base of a delicious, hearty main-meal soup. I use canned beans rather than fresh as they are more tender and frankly because it makes less work. You will need:

• Leftover Coca-Cola broth, about 6 cups

• Ham bone with some meat attached

• Canned navy beans, 2 x 29oz cans (I used Eden brand)

• Vidalia sweet onion, 1 large *

• Carrots, 2 large

• Celery ribs, 2

• Bay leaves, 2

• Leftover ham

Pour the leftover cola broth into a large pot then add the ham bone and rinsed, drained canned beans.

Peel and chop the onion and carrots; trim then chop the celery and add the vegetables to the pot. Add bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. (The beans I used had no salt added so the soup needed a little more seasoning; adjust according to the brand you buy and to your personal taste.)

Simmer for an hour, uncovered, over medium-low heat. Shred a good handful of leftover ham then add to the pot and continue to cook for another hour or so until the soup has thickened slightly and the meat is literally falling off the ham bone.  Remove the bone, shred the meat from it into the soup then season to taste again if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

* You might ask why I wouldn’t just use the leftover onion from the cola broth and it’s quite simply because after the ham has cooked, that vegetable has very little taste; the soup needs the full flavour of a fresh onion.