Pasta alla Contadina – Pasta with Sausage, Leeks and Saffron

Pasta alla Contadina

Pasta with Sausage, Leeks and Saffron

- Ristorante Nazionale, Radicondoli (Siena)

Il Campo/Cucina guests always enjoy this dish at Ristorante Nazionale in the heart of Radicondoli. It is a surprisingly light and delicately flavored pasta with finely ground sweet sausage and just a touch of cream. The chef, Maria Rosa Barducci, serves it with tagliatelle (cooked al dente, of course); but it can also be served with penne, or spaghetti.

10 Servings

Ingredients:

6 or 7 leeks

8 Sweet Italian sausages (or 2 pounds)

1 cup dry white wine

1 pouch of powdered saffron (or 6 threads)

½ small box panna di cucina* or 4 ounces whipping cream

salt and pepper

Instructions:

Mix the saffron powder or threads with the panna di cucina or whipping cream and let steep in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or overnight if you have time. This makes the cream a rich yellow color.

Trim off the tops of the leeks, then slice them lengthwise in half and rinse thoroughly. Chop the leaks into ¼ inch dice.

Place a large skillet or sauté pan over a medium high flame with 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil, then sauté until wilted and soft.

Remove the casings from the sausages and break them up into small pieces with your fingers, then mix in with the leeks.

Cook the sausage and leeks together over medium high heat, continuing to break up the sausage into small bits with a wooden spoon.

When the color of the sausage changes, add the white wine. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine evaporates.

The sauce can now be set aside or refrigerated until time to serve.

Before serving, warm the sausage mixture in a pan then stir in the saffron cream mixture and a handful of finely minced parsley with minced garlic to taste.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meantime, boil the pasta to al dente, drain and then toss into the sauce until well coated. Serve immediately.

Notes:

The delicate flavor of the saffron is best appreciated without parmesan cheese.

You can find panna ci cucina in some Italian food markets; it is simply a thickened, long-conservation rendition of fresh cream. It is not critical to go searching for the Italian version for this recipe.