A zingy Italian sausage and (tinned) cherry tomato sauce

When I cook, I often cheat. There I said it. I cheat. What do I do? I use tins. Pretty much any time I make any sort of wet dish with tomatoes, I always use tinned. When I use pulses – unless they’re lentils, they’re almost always tinned. Likewise anchovies, sardines and sweetcorn.

Without them, cooking wouldn’t be nearly so spontaneous. Or as much fun. For all that I love to spend a lot of time chopping, stirring and tasting, I simply don’t have enough time to peel and chop tomatoes. Particularly when the end result often doesn’t taste as good as the tinned Italian variety.

Don’t even get me started on preparing dried beans and chickpeas. I tried it – the whole soaking overnight and cooking for hours malarky – and it didn’t taste any better than when I used a tin. Okay, so I made sure it was an organic, no-added-salt-or-sugar tin. But it still tasted just as good.

Italian sausage pasta cooking
Cooking the sausage sauce

This pasta sauce is a classic example of a quick and tasty use of tinned tommies. Italian sausages often come flavoured with chilli, fennel and/or oregano. And they are denser than their English equivalent. Which means they hold their shape and taste when you slice and cook them, but still spread their delicious flavours through the sauce.

Add the sweet sharp taste of the cherry tomatoes, fresh lemon juice and wee bit of cayenne heat, and you end up with a something that zings for your supper. Properly meaty lumps of tasty sausage meat and al dente pasta give it heft and texture. It’s great as a packed lunch the next day too.

And it only takes about 30-40 minutes to make, from start to finish. And this is the bottom line, tinned sometimes makes life easier. I’m not saying go out and eat tinned meat (shudder) or peas, carrot or potatoes for that matter. But some things work well, better even, from tins. So use those and make your life easier.

Italian sausage and tomato pasta
Four medium servings – big starters or small mains
Italian sausages, lemon and onion

This could also be made with chopped fresh cherry or regular tomatoes, or indeed regular tinned plum tomatoes. I have tried with all the above and generally, tinned works best. There is no loss of flavour and the more liquidy tinned tommies suit the sauce better.

I always taste the sauce near the end and add more lemon juice, vinegar, sugar and/or black pepper depending on what it tastes like. This can depend on the tomatoes and sausages you’re using and each can bring different intensities of flavour to the sauce.

2 Italian sausages thickly sliced on the diagonal
1 tin of cherry tomatoes
1 onion
Half a red pepper
1-2 cloves garlic
Half a lemon
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 tsp dried oregano
A splash of sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to season

Pour a little olive oil in the pan and heat over a moderate flame. Add the onion and stir for a minute or two before adding the pepper and then sausages. Cook, stirring once or twice for four or five minutes until the sausages start to brown.

Add the garlic, cayenne and oregano and stir a couple of times before splashing in the vinegar. wait for it to bubble for a few seconds before adding the tomatoes, and squeezing in the lemon juice.

Stir a little, turn down to a low heat and leave to cook for 20-30 minutes while you sort out the pasta. When everything is cooked, toss it all together and enjoy with a glass of wine.

17 Responses to “A zingy Italian sausage and (tinned) cherry tomato sauce”

  1. meemalee

    Expecting “The Grubworm’s How To Cheat” book now!

    Seriously though, it makes sense to use tinned tomatoes because invariably the stuff inside the can is a better quality tomato than the ones you can get fresh in this country.

    And crikey – who has the time, and more importantly the memory, to soak pulses in advance? :)

    Where do you get your sausage from? Yours look nicely packed (fnar)

  2. Mr Noodles

    I think the fact that tinned tomatoes work better than fresh is a sad reflection on what are sold are as fresh.

  3. The Grubworm

    @meemalee – i’m working on it! AS for the sausage – these came from Barbecoa, but I also pick them up in a small Italian deli near where I live. They’re import jobbies and are properly packed Italian lovelies (double fnar).

    @Mr Noodles – you are right, why do we insist on those tasteless flabby tomatoes all year rounds. Sad.

  4. Nordic Nibbler

    Totally agree. Life is way too short to peel tomatoes/soak beans. Besides, as others have mentioned tinned tomatoes taste much better in sauces than some of the tasteless watery things that are passed off as fresh ones (I’m a big fan of the Mutti brand of tinned tomatoes).

    Love the sound of this recipe – great for a mid-week dinner. I used to make something similar, but sadly I can’t find decent sausages anywhere since I moved to Oslo. I sometimes add double cream and a ton of parmesan to make it super decadent.

  5. Mzungu

    I’ve always used tinned tomatoes. How else can you get homemade tomato sauce in December.
    After many experiments on different types the Cirio brand is my favourite. I don’t see it as cheating, but making use of what’s good in any part of the year.

  6. The Grubworm

    @Nordic Nibbler – cream and parmesan sound wickedly tasty! I often chuck in some creme fraiche as it adds a slightly sharp edge to proceedings.

    @Mzungu – me too! I tried the whole fresh tomato thing for a while, but realised it just didn’t taste as good. I see Cirio a lot locally, so will kepp an eye out. Currently my favourites are Napoletana chopped plum tommies and Waitrose whole cherry tomoatoes.

  7. oliver

    I love tinned food! It’s great. I don’t even get good quality ones, just the cheapest ones from Turkish supermarkets and they honestly seem fine…! Tinned chickpeas most be one of the most useful things ever, hummus in five minutes, sweet. And peas from frozen natch (and Okra, nice tip from Ottolenghi book of getting bags of frozen mini okra, useful to have in the freezer for curry/soup).

    I do want to try some long cooking of beans tho for experimentation and for recipes where they need a long cook with fats and tinned ones wouldn’t stand up such as this.

    http://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatingasia/2011/03/kuru-fasulye-turkish-white-beans-istanbul.html

  8. Jenny Eatwell

    I am so glad that someone else has discovered how gorgeous the tinned cherry tomatoes are. I’ve completely given up on the other tins – the amount required to buy a tin of cherries is more than made up for in flavour. As for using fresh tomatoes, well, that’s all well and good so long as you have a) lots of storage space for lots of tomatoes and b) you can find a really tasty tomato to buy and c) you can be fagged with standing there chopping (and potentially blanching) blinking tomatoes for ages. That’s what makes restaurant food restaurant food – they go the extra mile.

  9. The Grubworm

    @oliver – those ones in the Turkish grocers are pretty good. I wonder if they know their tinned tomatoes better than we think they do? Good tip re the okra – i’ll keep an eye out for them.

    @Jenny Eatwell – they are ace aren’t they? I only found them quite recently and they’re brilliant.

  10. Food Urchin

    You. Use. Tinned. Food…….*gobsmacked*

    I always, ALWAYS only use fresh, seasonal produce and if that means going without, then so be it.

    We didn’t eat anything in February.

  11. The Grubworm

    @Food Urchin – I know, I know… SO disappointing. I know I’ve let you down and will endeavour to do better.

    Maybe you could patent the “seasonal diet”, could make a fortune.

  12. youngandfoodish

    According to Marcella Hazan, tinned tomatoes should satisfy the following criteria:

    - No pieces in the tin
    - No sauce in the tin
    - Nothing but whole, firm-fleshed tomatoes, with a little of their juice

    You may find that virtually none of the brands widely sold in the UK meet these criteria. You can, however, find good San Marzanos in some better Italian delis. And failing that, Waitrose Organic Peeled Plum tomatoes are pretty good, if you pour out the sauce.

    Whatever you do, be it cherry or plum, always buy whole peeled tomatoes, never crushed. If you must crush do it with your bare hands.

  13. The Grubworm

    @youngandfoodish – wow, that is a tough list to live up to, and i think you’re right, not many tins in the UK do! I will, however, keep an eye out for those San Marzanos. I do like the idea of crushing them with my hands though, a properly tactile cooking experience.

  14. youngandfoodish

    Yes, when you open your restaurant you probably don’t want to include “hand-crushed tomatoes” in your menu description of your signature Italian sausage pasta dish.

  15. The Grubworm

    @yougandfoodish – heh, this is true…

  16. Lizzie

    I can’t remember when the last time I ate a delicious fresh tomato was in this country. Tinned all the way!

  17. The Grubworm

    @Lizzie – every time I go for fresh tommies here I am invariably disappointed. The only good ones I have had are some varieties of big beefsteak ones that are grown locally and in season (and are eye-wateringly expensive).So like you, I often go for tinned. What I’d give for fresh Italian or Spanish tomatoes.

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