- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 large pinches saffron (optional)
- 1 pound frozen cavatelli
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving
- In a large deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, water, salt, and 1 pinch of the saffron. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli with the remaining pinch saffron until just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water, and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.
Sausage Substitutes If you can't find hot Italian sausage, use ground pork or mild sausage and a quarter teaspoon of dried red-pepper flakes.
Red wines from Sardinia are almost impossible to find in the U.S., but a sturdy Cirò, made across the water in Calabria from the Gaglioppo grapes, will be a fine substitute.