Pork Sausage Ragu with Cicciones

Cicciones with Pork Sausage Ragu

This pork sausage ragu is called alla Campidanese in Italian as it’s typical of the Campidano plains in southern Sardinia. Campidano is where a lot of the island’s vegetables are grown, and this sauce is as much about onion, carrot, celery and tomato as it is about the pork. Typical of many rustic dishes, the meat is more a flavouring than the star, a way to create a satisfying meal using inexpensive ingredients. Salsiccia, Italian-style fennel-scented sausages, are a perfect little pouch of pre-seasoned pork mince that can be squeezed out of the skins for making pasta sauces and meatballs; I always keep a few in the freezer. Pecorino, Sardinia’s ubiquitous sheep’s milk cheese, is the other key ingredient adding flavour and a lovely creaminess to this ragu. Buy a young Pecorino Sardo (around 6–9 months) if you can, alternatively a Tuscan Pecorino Toscano is similar in flavour. Staying Tuscan, I love a Chianti Classico with this pork sausage ragu; the Rancia from Fèlsina is elegant and silky with good juicy sangiovese fruit to balance the rich ragu. In Italy pasta is always a first course, but this dish makes a hearty meal for 3 or 4 people served with a simple green salad. Leftovers reheat really well too, especially if you save some of the pasta cooking water to loosen up the pork sausage ragu which thickens when it’s left standing.

Serves 6–8 as a starter

Ingredients
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced (about 130g/4½oz)
  • 1 stalk celery heart, finely diced (about 50g/2oz)
  • Salt flakes, to taste
  • 3 or 4 Italian-style pork and fennel sausages, skins removed (about 340g/12oz)
  • 3 teaspoons very finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano, crumbled
  • 1 fresh bay leaf, torn
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine (40ml)
  • 400g canned peeled tomatoes, crushed (14oz)
  • 1 cup water, or more as needed (250ml)
  • 1 quantity Cicciones Pasta
  • 55g freshly grated Pecorino Sardo (2oz/about 1¼ cups)
Method
  1. Place oil, onion, carrot, celery and a good pinch of salt in a large frying pan over medium heat, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
  2. Uncover and cook for a further 10–15 minutes or so, until starting to colour.
  3. Move vegetables to the side of the pan and add sausage meat, pressing it out evenly in the pan.
  4. Increase heat to medium–high and cook without stirring for 2–3 minutes until well browned.
  5. Turn and cook the other side for a further 2–3 minutes, until cooked through, using a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces.
  6. Stir in rosemary, oregano and bay and cook for a further 30 seconds or so, until aromatic.
  7. Add wine and cook for a few seconds, until it evaporates, stirring well to remove any bits stuck to the base of the pan.
  8. Add tomato and water (use it to rinse out the tomato tin first) and stir to combine well, crushing the tomato and meat well with a potato masher or wooden spoon.
  9. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring and crushing regularly, until it forms a sauce thick enough that it doesn’t flow back together when you stir it.
  10. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to serve.
  11. Cook cicciones according to their recipe.
  12. Meanwhile, return pork sausage ragu to a medium heat.
  13. Scoop cooked cicciones out of the water into the sauce, add three-quarters of the Pecorino and ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water and stir to combine well. Add more cooking water if necessary to create a creamy sauce.
  14. Serve into flat pasta bowls, sprinkle with remaining Pecorino and drizzle with oil.

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