Who didn’t love the HBO series The Sopranos? While we may never know what really happened to Tony Soprano and his family, I like to think they’re out there somewhere, making an honest living and eating as well as they ever did using recipes from their own family cookbook. I know I am.
I bought a copy of The Sopranos Family Cookbook back while the series was still in its heyday, and years later it’s still one of my go-to books for Italian food ideas. This recipe was the first dish I made from the book, and I have returned to it again and again over the years. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Carmela always knew what she was doing in the kitchen.
Carmela Soprano’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Tomato Sauce
1 pound ground Italian sausage (I prefer Papa George’s Italian Sausage)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup dry white wine (4 ounces)
28 to 35 ounces canned diced tomatoes (two 14½ cans or one large can)
1 pound rigatoni or penne
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Optional: several fresh basil leaves, diced or chiffonade
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Add the ground sausage and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the sausage, until the sausage is lightly browned. Add the wine and simmer until most of the wine evaporates. Stir in the tomatoes and seasonings and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 1½ hours. While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta according to package directions. Toss cooked pasta with the sauce (or spoon sauce over individual servings of pasta) and top with the grated cheese and basil.
Step by Step Details
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Add the ground sausage, breaking it apart as much as you can with your fingers. I really love Papa George’s Italian Sausage. It has such an amazing aroma as soon as it hits the pan that you’ll never want to leave the kitchen while it cooks. I also love that this sausage lower in fat than many sausages, so you don’t have to spoon out excess fat, but it is never, ever dry.
When browned on one side, flip it over and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the sausage until the sausage is lightly browned. If you have one of these handy little breaking-up-ground-meat tools, this step is super easy.
Add the wine and simmer until most of the wine evaporates. Stir in the canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. It will look pretty watery at this point.
Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened (about 1½ hours). When it’s ready, it will be very thick and chunky.
To serve, either toss the cooked pasta with the sauce or spoon the sauce over individual servings of pasta. I have made this with either rigatoni or penne, but any large shaped pasta would work.
Top with the grated cheese and basil leaves and enjoy with a Sopranos-worthy Italian red wine. (Or my personal favorite, Banfi Centine Rosso!)