THINGS I LIKE: Roasted Grape Tomato/ Broccoli Rabe/italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

I have always liked grape tomatoes (they are what I eat when tomatoes are out-of -season) and broccoli rabe as a vegetable. Both of these go well with Italian sausage so I put them all together into a recipe for a sauce for pasta. I roast the grape tomatoes to concentrate their flavor. This is done by placing the tomatoes on a sheet pan, coating them with extra virgin olive oil and placing the in a 400F oven for 30 - 50 minutes (depending on your oven) until the tomatoes are shriveled and some juice has come out of them. Some may have a little "char" on them  which is good because it gives a slight smoky flavor to the tomatoes. I  "blanch" the broccoli rabe before use, ie, place in boiling, salted water for 30 seconds, remove quickly and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking and drain. This leaves the broccoli rabe slightly cooked but retains it's bright green color. It finishes cooking when added to the other sauce ingredients. These two steps can be done while preparing the sauce for use right away or, after being allowed to cool,  may be placed in plastic refrigerator bags and frozen for later use. I have frozen these ingredients for several weeks with no negative effect on the  outcome of the sauce. With these comments as prolog the recipe follows:


3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 oz sweet Italian sausage meat*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, blanched (see above)
4 pints grape tomatoes, roasted (see above)
1 tbsp. tomato paste**
1 tbsp. fennel seeds, toasted until fragrant. be careful not to burn.
TT  salt and freshly ground black pepper
red pepper flakes - optional
1 pound of tubular pasta; ziti, rigatoni, etc.


Cook the pasta in a large volume of boiling, salted water until a minute or two before it reaches the "al dente" stage.

While pasta is cooking prepare sauce.

Heat pan to medium and add olive oil and garlic. cook for a few moments and add sausage meat. When browned, move meat to sides of pan. Add a little more olive oil to the center of the pan, stir in fennel seed, add tomato paste and  cook a  minute or two in the oil, until the paste takes on a rust -like color. Mix in the sausage, then add the roasted tomatoes and broccoli rabe. When sauce is hot, drain pasta ( saving some of the cooking water) and add pasta to the pan. Cook a few more minutes until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce, is properly cooked and is heated through. If sauce needs thinning, add small amounts of pasta water until sauce is at proper consistency.

Place on a heated platter and serve.

*Grind your own from pork butt or use, either, market made ground sausage or sausage removed from their casings.

**I use a tube of double concentrated tomato paste - Amore brand. It is very convenient, you can use as much as you need and the rest will keep in the refrigerator a long period of time for future use.