Recipe: Hot Sausage and Mushroom Bucatini with a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

My mother was going to some dinner event with friends tonight and I was instructed to “make something your dad likes…you know, spicy, with mushrooms or peppers or whatever.” I took this to heart and made just that: a dish with mushrooms and peppers that was spicy. My dad and I both love heartiness in pasta dishes and red sauces, and this dish offered both. Bucatini, a thick, spaghetti-like pasta noodle with a hole in the center (down its length), is a unique pasta—it’s thick, with a bit of a bite or chew to it, and it always make me think that it’s more “old school” Italian than some of the other, more common pasta shapes on today’s grocery store shelves. My father tells me stories all the time about his Pap making heaping bowls of bucatini for the family and said tonight’s dish brought him right back to those dinners. Using roasted red bell peppers as the base of the sauce added a depth of flavor and a little punch that you don’t get in a plain tomato sauce and hot Italian sausage paired with meaty baby portobella mushrooms add a both meatiness and earthiness to the dish.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Special equipment: Food processor or stick blender

Ingredients
For the sauce

  • 1, 12 oz. jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp. red wine (cooking wine is fine)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Cornstarch-and-water mixture, as needed (this can help thicken the sauce just a little bit)

For the rest of the dish
  • 3 hot Italian sausage links (about 1/4 lb.), casings removed, pulled into small pieces
  • Approx. 1 cup baby portobella mushrooms, cleaned (stems/stalks removed), sliced
  • Approx. 10 fresh basil leaves (I ended up using one small packet of fresh basil from the grocery store), chiffonade cut (long, skinny strips)
  • 1 tbsp. red wine
  • Butter, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 1 lb. (16. oz.) bucatini pasta (any other long noodle, like spaghetti or linguine, would work if you can’t find bucatini)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Italian cheese, as desired
Directions
Add the roasted red bell peppers and diced tomatoes to the food processor. Heat a little butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat, then add the onion and cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook for less than a minute, then remove from heat and add the mixture to the food processor. Add the chicken stock, red wine, crushed red pepper flakes, dried basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the mixture and blend until fairly smooth and well-blended. Set aside. 
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. 
In the same pan used for the onion and garlic, add a little butter and olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook until mostly cooked through, then add the mushrooms and a little more butter, reducing the heat to medium. As soon as you add the mushrooms, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente (10-13 minutes). While the pasta and the mushroom and sausage mixture are each cooking, pour the red pepper sauce into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Add the cornstarch-and-water mixture if desired, let thicken a bit, and reduce the heat to medium. Let cook for about 5-10 minutes, then pour it into the mushroom and sausage mixture. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder, as desired. 
When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot, then stir the fresh basil into the sauce, mushroom, and sausage mixture and add the mixture to the pasta. Toss to coat. Serve topped with more fresh basil and Italian cheese, as desired. 
This dish is hearty, a little spicy, and absolutely delicious. The size and shape of pasta is incredibly important in Italian dishes and this dish screams for bucatini. This noodle’s thickness is perfect with this relatively thin sauce, and it pairs well with the chunks of sausage and mushroom slices. Cooking the mushrooms in with the sausage allows them to soak up that oh-so-good sausage grease, giving them exceptional flavor. Using roasted red peppers for the base of the sauce makes for a nice change from a traditional tomato sauce—there is a mild spiciness and smokiness in the sauce that makes it ideal with the heat in the sausage. Overall, very very tasty and definitely fit the bill for a dinner that’s “spicy, with peppers and mushrooms and stuff.”
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