Pasta with Saffron Sausage Sauce
Even friends who don’t like red sauces love this sauce

Large pinch of saffron threads
0.25 cups hot water
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
0.75 lb. Italian sausage, meat removed from casings and crumbled
1 28 oz can + 1 14 oz can Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped, liquid reserved
3 tbsp. slivered sage leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 LB malloreddus (we always use orichiette instead)
0.33 cup freshly grated aged Pecorino, plus more for service
0.5 cup slivered basil leaves

 

1. Steep the saffron in the hot water. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned. (About 20 minutes.)
2. Push the onions to the edge of the pan. Add the sausage meat and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, (About 8 minutes.) Stir in the chopped tomatoes, saffron water and sage, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes; whenever the sauce becomes very thick and begins to stick, stir in some of the reserved tomato liquid. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. Add the pecorino and the basil to the pasta sauce. Drain the pasta and add it to the hot sauce; toss well. Add a pat of butter during the toss to finish the sauce.

Adapted from Food and Wine, 1999.