Recipe: Penne and Spicy Chorizo with Tomato Sauce

I spent my morning learning how to fillet round fish (much more difficult and time-consuming than filleting flat fish) and prepping ingredients for the “a la carte” classes (they run a small restaurant on campus), so I was pretty exhausted when I got home and had no intention of going out for groceries. I wanted to make something quick, simple, and delicious, which in my life usually means cooking up pasta and some mixture of ingredients in a saute pan. I had leftover chorizo (spicy Spanish-style sausage) in the freezer, waiting to be used up, and some good-looking tomatoes and onions, so I decided to toss penne pasta with a mixture of cooked chorizo, tomato, onion, and garlic in a lightly seasoned tomato sauce. The sauce is unthickened, which makes the dish feel a little lighter, and the spicy sausage and a splash of red wine in the sauce make the dish flavorful, with some subtle heat to wake up your tastebuds after a tiring day.

Serves: 4-6 
Prep. time: 10 minutes 
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes 
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. (1/2 lb.) penne pasta (rigatoni or some other medium-to-large tubular pasta would work just as well)
  • 3 links chorizo sausage, casings removed, crumbled/pulled apart into small pieces (most brands usually have 5-6 links per package; hot Italian sausage is a good substitute if you can’t find chorizo)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 onions, diced
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil (or enough to lightly coat the bottom of a saute pan)
  • 7.5-8 oz. tomato sauce (canned is fine—I used a plain, canned Hunt’s tomato sauce; don’t get a seasoned sauce)
  • 3-5 tbsp. dry red wine, or to taste
  • 4-6 tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonade (there’s a good tutorial for this type of cut here)
  • 4-6 tbsp. fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Italian cheese, if desired

Directions
Bring salted water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions (usually 9-12 minutes). In the meantime, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crumbled chorizo and cook until just cooked through (about 5-8 minutes). Add the tomato, onion, and garlic and cook until the onion pieces are slightly soft (about 5-7 minutes). Add the tomato sauce and red wine, along with a little salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and reduce to medium-low heat so that the mixture is slightly bubbling. Drain the cooked pasta and toss the chorizo and tomato sauce mixture with it. Toss in the freshly cut basil and parsley and stir to mix. Serve topped with Italian cheese and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, if desired.

This dish is quick and easy—perfect for weeknights! The chorizo is spicy, but not overwhelmingly hot, and the tomato sauce flavored lightly with dry red wine helps balance the heat. I highly recommend that you use fresh herbs rather than dry, because they are absolutely delicious in this dish—not only do they add color, but they add their natural bright and clean flavor, which helps lighten the dish and make the dish taste fresher. As I said in comments in the ingredient list, you can easily use hot Italian sausage instead of chorizo and try out different kinds of tubular pastas. You could even put this pasta mixture in an oven-safe dish, layer fresh mozzarella on top, and bake it to create a hearty, cheesy pasta dish that would be perfect with a side salad or a slice of crusty Italian bread.

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