When I was in Boston a few weekends ago, I ate a lot of great food. But one meal that particularly stuck in my mind was Stella’s orecchiette with chile flake, sausage and cured tomato. I was surprised at richness and the depth of flavor in such a seemingly simple dish. It was hearty with a fresh, robust tomato sauce. I was still thinking about it this weekend, so I recreated a version of it on Sunday.
I hadn’t cured tomatoes before, so I used this recipe as a guide. I washed, scored, boiled, peeled and cut 2 pounds of grape and cherry tomatoes. (The recipe called for Romas and I would definitely use them next time. I just happened to have these little guys on hand and used them anyway
because I’m a pro at making things more difficult for myself, even though it took much longer to peel all of them.)
Next, I seasoned the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, placed them on a baking sheet and sprinkled sliced garlic on top. They went into the oven at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes.
Later in the evening, I prepared a box of orrecchiette. While the pasta cooked, I browned spicy chicken sausage. (I opted for that over pork to make the dish a little healthier.) When the meat was almost cooked, I added the cured tomatoes.
Once the pasta was al dente, I mixed the orecchiette with the tomatoes, sausages and a generous handful of chopped basil. I was so happy with how the dish came out. It was a little less rich than Stella’s (due to swapping pork for chicken) but just as tasty–and so pretty, too!
2 lbs tomatoes (I used a mix of grape and cherry tomatoes, though it’s probably best to use Romas)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for cooking the sausage
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb orecchiette
1 lb spicy chicken sausage, casing removed
a handful of fresh basil, chopped
1. Wash and score tomatoes on the side opposite stem. Place in boiling water for 20 seconds. Scoop out and immediately dunk in an ice bath. Remove skin and seeds. Cut into halves or quarters.
2. Toss tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle garlic on top. Bake at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes. Once cool, let tomatoes marinate in a container for at least two hours.
3. Cook orecchiette according to package directions. Once done, drain, reserving one cup pasta water.
4. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and break up into pieces. Once nearly cooked through, add cured tomatoes, pasta and pasta water, if needed. Toss in basil before serving.