After graduating from the CIA, line cook Zack Chambers spent six months cooking in Italy, and this recipe illustrates that influence. To learn more about Zack's cooking background and his culinary preferences, read part one and two of our conversation. This recipe makes for the final installment in our three part series with him, and offers a tangible lesson in what he's been cooking, and maybe a peek at what he might get his hands on at Tavolata.
Self-portrait by Zack Chambers, in Tuscany.
1/2 medium onion, minced
2-3 medium garlic cloves, lightly crushed with the side of your knife
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
one 28 oz. can whole, peeled plum tomatoes, broken apart with your hands or chopped (keep the juice)
4 oz. spicy Italian sausage (either bulk or removed from the casing)
1 pound penne pasta
small bunch of marjoram, leaves removed from stems
salt and pepper to taste
fresh grated Parmesan to taste
Start by lightly browning the garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Once browned, remove the garlic and set aside. Add the minced onion to the now infused oil and sweat on low heat until translucent. Sprinkle in the chili flakes and cook a minute more to let the spice disperse. Add tomatoes to the pan, juice and all, and stir to mix. Quickly chop up the browned garlic from earlier and add this back to the sauce. Turn the heat to medium and let it all come together for a few minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick, until it is a nice saucy consistency. Let the sauce continue to cook while you prepare the pasta.
Get some water on for the penne, and add a liberal helping of salt to the water.
In another pan heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and flick pieces of the sausage in to start browning. Let it sit for a bit so it will actually brown. Once browned on one side turn it over and brown the other side. When all is browned and a good amount of fat has been rendered remove the sausage pieces, drain the fat and put the pan back on the heat. Add the tomato sauce and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any of the accumulated bits. Reduce for a moment before adding your cooked sausage back into the mix. Turn your heat to low and let it ride until your pasta is cooked.
Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package-though I tend to just go based on my mouth feel. It should have a slight bite to it when properly cooked (al dente, as it were). Remove your penne, drain, and add it to the sauce. Toss it or stir it to coat your pasta. Taste for salt and maybe a crack or two of pepper. Now throw in the marjoram and toss once more. Serve it immediately with a solid grating of Parmesan over the top ...a hard Pecorino would also be great.