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.
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.
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
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.