A Second Date Sausage Ragu (not a euphemism)
If music be the food of love, I say that food is the food of sex. Silken pappardelle glistening with olive oil, lemon zest clinging to each strand, crystals of salted ricotta studding the bowl and delicate ribbons of courgette all tangled up: that is the stuff of erotica for this gal here.
The way to my heart (and seemingly my vulva - with consent, always) is a human who knows their way around a kitchen; whose idea of a perfect weekend involves going to the farmer’s market, picking up fresh produce and cooking it all with intention, passion and sensory pleasure. Yeeeew, getting hot just thinking about it.
So imagine my excitement when my first ever Bumble date happened to be with someone who was almost as passionate about food as me. Date location was a thing of beauty: P Franco, my favourite natural wine bar #eastlondoncliche, where we drank exciting whites and munched on burrata, bursting with creamy intensity and paired with a sublime sourdough. He reeled me in with his talk of favourite London restaurants and Friday night dinners. When he talked about using a sous-vide machine to cook his octopus (purchased at Fin + Flounder, extra bonus points), I discovered that lady boners really do exist.
Second date vibes: my flat. I’m cooking. I’ve never cooked for a boy here before, and I suddenly felt quite overcome with nerves. What do you cook for someone you don’t really know? What is sexy and low key because I’ve got to teach yoga an hour before he comes over? Risotto? Middle eastern mezze? Classic Asian?
No. It has to be - it just has to be pasta.
I settled on this - what I believe to be a total winner (soz vegetarians and vegans): slow cooked sausage ragu. I pulled out all the stops: I walked the 1.6 miles to Highbury Park, to the Italian deli that Nigel Slater goes to, and bought Tuscan sausages, freshly made pappardelle, herbs from the grocery store down the road and a bottle of Pinot Noir. I cooked it for 4 hours on a low heat, tasting every hour, trying not to devour the whole thing before he arrived. And tbh, it was a thing of beauty and I would totally fall in love with me if I were him.
So here’s the recipe, in case you wanted to try. You don’t have to schlep over to Highbury to get your bougis groceries, but they do taste damn good.
Cat’s sexy slow cooked sausage ragu
2 large carrots, diced
1 white onion or large shallot, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 head of garlic
500g of quality sausage meat (I bought sausages and just took the meat out of the casings)
Sage, thyme, bay leaves + rosemary
Crushed chilli flakes
Sea salt flakes
Cracked black pepper
500g of fresh pappardelle
1 cup rapeseed oil (+ extra virgin olive oil for serving)
3 large tomatoes on the vine, diced
Start by browning the sausage meat for 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate and put aside (don’t drain the fat with a kitchen towel! #fatisflavour).
Place the carrots, onion, celery and about 3-4 garlic cloves finely sliced or minced (honestly I basically used half a head of garlic because if someone doesn’t want to kiss my garlicky mouth then we will never work out) in the same high-sided casserole dish (cast iron works best) with 1/2 cup of rapeseed oil on a medium heat. Add a few sage leaves, thyme stalks, 2-3 bay leaves and fresh rosemary, along with the a generous pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper; allow the vegetables to collide and for all the fragrances to melt into each other. Stay with this for about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, cook them down a little, then re-add the sausage meat. Allow it all to sizzle and mix before squeezing half a tube of tomato puree and about 1-2 cups of water. Taste and add seasoning to suit.
Bring it up to a simmer and then keep on a medium heat for about 30 minutes. Keep stirring and tasting.
Turn the oven on and pre-heat at 150 degrees celsius.
Place casserole dish in the oven and leave for 3-4 hours. You can adjust the temperature depending on how long you want to leave it in. The longer it cooks, the more the flavours will break down.
When ready to serve, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pappardelle for a few minutes. Drain the pasta (keeping a cup of the pasta water just in case), take the ragu out of the oven and add the pasta to the dish. Use tongs to bring it all together, add a bit of pasta water to loosen the sauce.
To serve, plate up and finely grate parmesan and lemon zest on top. Scatter chopped herbs and drizzle olive oil to finish.
The ragu went down a treat on the second date and led to some v heavy petting, but I wasn’t quite ready to have sex so quick, so I sent him on his bike (quite literally - apparently the chain came off half a mile down the road and he had to walk it back at 2am #sorrynotsorry). Nothing more came of the date, but I did discover that sausage ragu is my new signature dish and a strange aphrodisiac - mainly for myself, so might just start making it on self-pleasure Sundays 💦