We had this dish at Trattoria Centrale last Halloween. We shamelessly ripped it off and, with a small variation, it’s made it into our regular rotation.
1 lb. pasta – orchietta or rigatoni are best, penne would be okay if you are a communist
1/2 lb. italian sausage without its casing
1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and roughly diced
1/2 bag of fresh spinach – Trattoria Centrale uses rapini, but it’s not the easiest veg to find so we substituted
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
dry red pepper flakes to taste
parmesan or pecorino or both, asiago if you must
This is best prepared in a big pot as you are going to toss all of the ingredients with the pasta at the end. I like to use my Dutch oven. Pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil and add the garlic. I know to some this is heresy, but I don’t like to put garlic into preheated oil. I find I have more control if I add the oil and garlic and then turn the heat up high. There’s less chance of browning it and having it turn all acrid. When the garlic starts to turn a little translucent, about three or four minutes, add the red bell pepper and the red pepper flakes and cook until some of the bell peppers turn orange at the edges. Next add the sausage and brown, stirring frequently to get the garlic and peppers mixed in with the crumbled sausage. Check for salt and then add the spinach, again, stirring frequently until it wilts and mixes in with everything else. I haven’t tried cooking this with rapini, but I would assume it should be sauteed a bit in oil first, otherwise it will be entirely too tough. I have no idea why, but the phrase “entirely too tough” in my mind is spoken in Julia Child’s voice. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, drain, and then toss with the sausage mixture. Plate and top with a little too much cheese.
I can think of quite a few wines that would do well with this, but I like it with a dry rose. Domaine de Fontsainte ($14 or so) was particularly good.