If you’re lucky enough to have access to a Grocery Outlet (I believe they’re only ubiquitous in California, Oregon and Washington, although other regions of the U.S. probably have something comparable), here’s a tip for you: Check the frozen-foods aisle for sausage. They have it in the regular meat area, but it’s nowhere near as cheap as the frozen stuff—several times now I was able to find Johnsonville Italian sausage for $1.79 a pound. At this rate it’s cheaper than beef or pork, and it makes a superb pasta sauce. It’s not quite as quick and easy as the bacon and tomato cream sauce I posted a few days ago, but it’s amazingly flavorful and allows you to stretch less than $2 worth of sausage into almost 6 servings.
Recipe adapted from Food and Wine magazine. Almost all the ingredients below were also purchased from Grocery Outlet.
A word of warning: The sausage mixture is best marinated overnight in the fridge.
• 1 lb. spaghetti: 79 cents
• 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed: $1.79
• 1 28-oz. can plus 1 14-oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped in a food processor: $1.79
• 1 1/3 cups dry white wine (perfectly respectable wine for cooking can be found at pretty much any store for $2.99/bottle): $1.21
• 4 garlic cloves: 4 cents
• 1 tsp ground fennel (I recommend buying whole seeds in bulk and grinding them in a spice grinder): 5 cents
• 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes: 2 cents
• 1/2 tsp ground black pepper: 1 cent
• 1/4 cup olive oil: 24 cents
• 1 onion, chopped: 20 cents
• 1 carrot, chopped: 3 cents
• 1 celery, chopped: 9 cents
• Grated Parmesan: $1
• Salt: 1 cent
• Large handful of Italian parsley, chopped (garden): $0
TOTAL: $7.26/5 = $1.45/serving
Puree the garlic and 1/3 cup wine in a blender until smooth. (You may have to cut the garlic up into pieces for this to work the first time.) Pour the mixture into a bowl with the sausage, fennel, and both kinds of pepper, knead to combine. Let sit overnight in the fridge. (Or for as long as you have, but overnight does make a difference.)
Heat the oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage mixture and cook until browned, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, about 6 minutes. Add the mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) and cook until softened, another 5-6 minutes.
Add the 1 cup wine and cook until wine has evaporated, another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 40-45 minutes. Season to taste. (I added the parsley after this time, but I don’t think I’d do it again. It’s better as a garnish.)
Cook the pasta to al dente in boiling salted water. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine, adding pasta water if needed to loosen consistency. Serve garnished with cheese and parsley.