Gnocchetti Sardi dressed with a Tomato and a Pork Sausage Ragú and Differences between Ragú, Sugo and Salsa

I ate at a Sardinian restaurant in Melbourne recently and ordered Malloreddus Campidanese – Homemade traditional semolina pasta with slow cooked sausage ragú, wild fennel, chili and Sardinian pecorino cheese.

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Another name for Malloreddus are Gnocchetti Sardi (small, gnocchi shaped pasta). These are made with hard wheat flour (durum wheat), salt and water…no eggs. The mixture is kneaded for a long time and then shaped into small concave gnocchi with the help of one’s thumb and a small tool to make the ribs/ grooves– the indentation traps the sauce.
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Campidano is the name of the vast plain in Sardegna (Sardinia) so the dish originates from that part of Sardegna.

Pecorino Sardo – is strong tasting and obviously local and the preferred grating cheese. Wild fennel grows freely in Sardegna.

Sardo (masculine, singular), Sardi (masculine, plural) = Sardinian.

RAGÚ and SUGO
The ragú implies that the sauce was reduced, i.e. the flavours are concentrated and the ingredients are usually cooked for a long time. The resulting sauce is used to dress pasta, fregola, polenta, rice.  The Italian expression ‘ragú’ is derived from the French ‘ragout’-it is a thick stew of meat, poultry or fish with or without vegetables.

A ‘sugo’ is often used interchangeably with ‘ragú’- different regions of Italy prefer one term above the other, but generally a ragú is cooked on low heat for a long time and the flavours are concentrated.

Because sausages cook quickly I would probably hesitate to refer to this pasta dressing as a ragú, unless I had added some pieces of pork meat which would benefit with longer cooking.

I had some commercially bought Gnocchetti Sardi in my pantry. I also had crushed tomatoes. I bought some Italian pork sausages. I also know where to collect wild fennel, but if you purchase Italian pork and fennel sausages (and perhaps add a few fennel seeds) you will have similar results.

The dish is so easy to replicate.

6 Italian pork sausages or pork and fennel sausages (hot or mild)

1 onion, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of dry white or red wine
800g crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, whole
seasoning: salt and crushed chili flakes, or pepper to taste
some wild fennel sprigs or ½ tsp fennel seeds
fresh basil (optional)

100g of pasta per person. I cooked 400g of Gnocchetti Sardi
grated Pecorino (of good quality). I sometimes use Pecorino Pepato (has pepper corns in it)

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, and allow to soften over a moderate heat.
Remove the casings from the sausages and crumb the meat, separating it into small pieces. Add the sausage meat, brown, add the wine and evaporate.
Add the crushed tomatoes, seasoning, garlic, fennel and basil.
Cover and cook slowly on  low heat until thickened for about 30- 40 minutes.
Remove the garlic before dressing the pasta.

Cook the pasta, dress and present with grated pecorino.

SALSA
As an alternative you could make a simple tomato salsa…  so what is the difference between a tomato based sugo and a tomato salsa?

To an Italian this is important.

A tomato salsa is made quickly with pureed tomatoes…. No meat or vegetables, easy, fragrant and perfect for summer as a dressing for pasta:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
800g crushed tomatoes (fabulous with fresh tomatoes, peeled)
2 garlic cloves, whole
fresh basil
salt and pepper

Put all of the ingredients together in a pan and cook uncovered until thickened.
Remove the casings from the sausages and crumb the meat, separating it into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the sausage meat, brown it and add this (meat and juices) to the prepared salsa.

Check out one of my old posts, great photos of my Sicilian aunt making Sicilian Gnocchetti:

Gnucchiteddi (Making Small Gnocchi Shapes Using My Great Grandmother’s Device)

 

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