…near a grove of macaroni bushes. 😉
My hubby always teases about spaghetti trees and macaroni bushes, which I always attributed to his unique and delightful sense of humor. In addition, though, I have since learned that on April Fool’s Day in 1957, the BBC, as a joke, ran a 3-minute segment on their news program Panorama about a family in Switzerland who was harvesting their crop of spaghetti from their spaghetti trees:
I was thinking about this yesterday as I assembled our supper — Spaghetti with Hot Turkey Italian Sausage. Here in the U.S., Italian sausage comes in two flavors: sweet and spicy (hot). Myself, I don’t care for the sweet, which has a strong licorice flavor and aftertaste to it from the anise seasoning. The hot sausage, flavored with red pepper flakes, is my absolute favorite.
In its traditional pork sausage form, Italian sausage is a tasty but high-fat, high-calorie meat, so it had always been a very rare — as in, once every several years — treat for me. So you can imagine my delight when I saw Turkey Italian Sausage at the grocery store! The brand available in my local stores is Honeysuckle White, and it has all the things I love about a good spicy Italian sausage — flavor and just the right amount of spicy heat from the red pepper flakes and other seasonings — but without all the calories and fat. I’ve only been able to find the hot sausage at intermittent times at some of our local Brookshire’s stores (our local WalMart sells only the sweet variety), so when I see it available, I snag up as many packages of it as I can, securely wrap (cling wrap, then into a freezer storage bag) what we don’t eat before the “use or sell by” date, and plop it in the freezer.
Vegetarians, there’s no need for you to feel left out — a simple Google quickly brought Tofurky to my attention, which has a vegetarian version of Italian sausage available. 🙂 I’m sure there are other substitutions available to you, as well.
Italian sausage can be enjoyed a variety of ways — as a pizza topping, in a lasagna, snuggled into a hearty hot dog or sandwich bun, in soups and casseroles — but one of our favorites is simmered in a tasty tomato sauce and served over spaghetti. Add a tossed green salad (we love having a light Caesar salad along with it) and a bread stick or bit of garlic bread or Italian bread, and Mama Mia, you’ve got a yummy supper!
(A Note About the Pasta: While I do try to keep my carbs in balance, that doesn’t mean I can’t ever have pasta. When eating a pasta dish, I pay extra attention to portions, making sure that I don’t overdo. I also go easy on the bread and focus more on the sauce and the salad. Using whole wheat or higher-fiber pasta is another way to keep carbs in check while adding in more fiber.)
My basic tomato sauce is fairly versatile, based on what I have on hand and the kind of mood I’m in. It’s easy to adjust to make as thin or as thick as you like, as chock full of flavors or as basic as you want. If I have them on hand and feel like it, diced green bell pepper and/or sliced mushrooms (fresh or canned/jarred) make a nice addition. Tinned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and paste that are already seasoned with some basil, oregano, and/or garlic can give you a head start on the seasonings, but I still always add in some more — we like our herbs! 😉 V8 juice adds a nice “garden” dimension to the flavor — and boosts the nutrition a bit more — as does finely diced/minced carrot and celery.
I started adding V8 juice and finely chopped carrot and celery — I whiz it up in my handy, dandy, wee 1 1/2 cup food processor — as part of an effort to recreate some of the tastiest Italian tomato sauce we’ve ever had when hubby and I were vacationing in Galveston years and years ago. While Galveston, a Gulf port, is more closely associated with sea food, hubby and I were in the mood for something different one evening and strolled into a quiet little Italian restaurant. Hubby remarked on the “fresh garden taste” of the seasoned tomato sauce, and he was right — it had a delicious fresh vegetable sweetness to it (as opposed to the sugar-infused sweetness common to so many commercially-prepared Italian tomato sauces). Adding in a bit of carrot and celery helps boost the nutrition a bit, as well.
However I end up seasoning it, it makes for a yummy meal. Leftovers will keep for a few days in the ‘fridge; you can also freeze leftovers for enjoyment later.
Spaghetti with Turkey Italian Sausage (Makes 5 to 8 servings, depending upon appetites and how much of the sauce you make)
- 1 package (5 sausages, or 1.25 pounds) Turkey Italian Sausage (I prefer the hot; you may prefer the sweet, if you’re a licorice fan) (Vegetarians: Seek out a Tofurky or other vegetarian substitution)
- Olive or canola oil
- Red wine (white would likely work, as well)
- 1/2 to 1 medium to large onion, finely chopped/diced
- Minced garlic to taste
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped/diced (optional)
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped/diced (optional)
- 1 can (14 -15 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce (add more if desired)
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste (use a 12 ounce can, if desired)
- 3/4 cup (6 ounce can) V8 juice (optional)
- Sliced mushrooms (optional)
- Diced green bell pepper (optional)
- Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians — leave out or use a vegan substitute)
- Seasonings to taste: bay leaf(ves), basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, parsley and rosemary (optional))
- I prepare the turkey sausage as suggested by Rachael Ray: I place it in a skillet, add in some water (reaches about halfway up the sausages), and drizzle with just a wee bit of olive (or canola) oil. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and cook sausages, turning occasionally, until most of the water is evaporated. This cooks the sausages and as the water goes down, the oil helps brown them.
- Remove sausages from skillet. Adjust heat under skillet as necessary. Add in diced onion and sauté for just a bit. Add in minced garlic and sauté. Add in some healthy splashes of wine (I prefer red; I used some Shiraz, because that’s what I had on hand and open) to “deglaze” the pan, and simmer the onion/garlic mixture for just a bit.
- Add in finely minced/chopped carrot and celery, if using. (I like to whiz it up in my wee little food processor; a blender would also make it super-fine, if desired.) Add in green bell pepper and/or fresh mushrooms, if using (or add them in later and let them just simmer in the sauce).
- Pour in tinned tomatoes (UNDRAINED), tomato sauce (I always start out with 8 ounces; I can add in more later if need be), and tomato paste. (I usually use the smaller 6 ounce can, but sometimes will use the 12 ounce can and just add in some more wine/water/desired liquid to adjust the sauce to the consistency I want at the time.) Stir together. Add in V8 juice now, if using, or wait until after it simmers a bit.
- Add seasonings to taste: a splash of Worcestershire sauce, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, and parsley. I also like a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to give it a hint of “fra diavolo” flavor. Add in a bay leaf or two. I’m lucky enough to have fresh rosemary growing in my herb garden, so I like to lay a snipping or two of rosemary twigs on the sauce to simmer (as with bay leaves, I remove them before we eat). I much prefer fresh rosemary to dried, but you can use dried if you prefer, or you can just leave the rosemary out. Reduce heat to simmer.
- The sausage: you can leave the sausages whole and return them to the sauce to simmer, or you can slice it and return the slices to the sauce to simmer — it’s whatever you want to do.
- Let sauce simmer, tasting occasionally and adjusting seasonings and liquids as necessary, until sausage is cooked thoroughly and sauce has achieved desired consistency and flavor. (I usually let my sauce simmer for 2 or 3 hours, all told.)
- Serve over desired pasta (I like to cook mine a bit past al dente and then toss with a wee bit of butter/margarine and/or olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley) — spaghetti, angel hair, penne, whatever floats your boat.
It smells so yummy, you’ll be wanting to plant spaghetti trees and macaroni bushes. 🙂