Penne with Sicilian Shepard's Sauce
- Top 1/3 of 3 large celery stalks with leaves
- 1 medium carrot
- 10 large fresh sage leaves
- 1 tightly packed teaspoon fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons robust extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 (1/8-inch) thick slice salami (such as soppressata or Genoa), coarsely chopped
- 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- Generous pinch to 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) and 1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, both thoroughly drained
- 1 pound penne rigate or bucatini
- 6 quarts boiling salted water
- 1 pound creamy whole-milk ricotta (sheep's milk if possible)
Mince together the celery and carrot, adding the herbs towards the end to chop only coarsely. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salami and cook to release a little of its fat. Stir in the minced celery blend, the onions, a little salt, and a generous amount of black pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and saute to golden brown.
Stir in the garlic and hot pepper, cooking a few minutes. Add the wine and slowly simmer the mixture until it is almost completely reduced, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pan. Cook, uncovered, at a lively bubble (turn the heat up if necessary), stirring and scraping down the sides of the pan with a spatula. Cook 10 minutes, or until thick. Taste for seasoning, cover, and remove from heat.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in rolling boiling water, stirring often, until slightly underdone. Drain in a colander.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss together over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, tasting for hot pepper and salt. Spread about 1/3 of the pasta in a heated serving bowl and daub with a third of the ricotta. Layer in more pasta and ricotta, then the remaining pasta, finishing with a few spoonfuls of ricotta. Serve hot.