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"Big Night" Appetite

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 30 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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2 tablespoons EVOO, plus more for drizzling

3/4 pound ground beef sirloin (80 percent lean) 

3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, bulk or cut from casing 

1 small to medium onion 

4 cloves garlic 

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary 

Salt and pepper 

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste 

1/2 cup red vermouth or red wine 

Two 15-ounce or one 28-ounce can Italian cherry tomatoes or San Marzano tomatoes 

1 1/2 cups passata (tomato puree) or cherry tomato passata 

1 pound fusilli lunghi (long fusilli), fusilli short pasta curls or cavatappi (hollow pasta corkscrews) 

Grated pecorino, to serve 

Bruschetta with Ricotta and Walnuts, recipe follows

Escarole and Fennel Salad, recipe follows

Bruschetta with Ricotta and Walnuts:

1/3 cup walnut halves

A few stems of fresh thyme (a small handful) 

1 small lemon 

About 1 1/2 cups of fresh ricotta cheese (sheep's milk or cow's milk) 

2 cloves of garlic 

Salt and pepper 

EVOO, for liberal drizzling 

Crusty peasant-style white bread, sliced for bruschetta (1/2 inch thick) 

Flaky salt, for sprinkling

Escarole and Fennel Salad:

1 head escarole, cleaned

1/2 bulb fennel 

1 small red onion 

3 ribs celery with leafy tops 

1 lemon 

EVOO, about 3 tablespoons 

Shaved pecorino, for serving 

Salt and pepper 


  1. Place water on to boil for pasta. Gather ingredients.
  2. Heat Dutch oven or deep skillet with lid over high heat, add EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, then add meats and brown and crumble the meat. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop onion, slice or grate garlic and strip and chop rosemary (2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons once chopped). Add onions to meat and stir, then season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and rosemary, partially cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and stir, then add red vermouth or wine and let it absorb. Add tomatoes and passata and reduce heat to low. Partially cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Salt water and cook pasta a minute less than package directions, reserving 1/2 cup starchy cooking water. Toss drained pasta with three-quarters of the sauce and a couple handfuls of pecorino and the pasta water to combine, add a fat drizzle of EVOO, optional. Serve in shallow bowls or on platter topped with remaining meat sauce. Serve with Bruschetta with Ricotta and Walnuts and Escarole and Fennel Salad.

Bruschetta with Ricotta and Walnuts:

  1. Toast nuts on small pan in hot oven or in a skillet over moderate heat until browned and fragrant. Cool a bit, then grind in food processor.
  2. Strip the thyme and chop, about 3 tablespoons. Zest about 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and halve the lemon.
  3. In a small bowl combine the cheese, walnuts, 1 clove of grated or pasted garlic, lemon zest, juice of half the lemon (reserve the other half for another use) most of the thyme, salt and pepper, and a fat drizzle of EVOO (about 2 tablespoons). Transfer to serving bowl and top with remaining thyme.
  4. Char bread under hot broiler on high or over open flame on stove. Rub with cut clove of garlic, then drizzle bread with EVOO and sprinkle with flaky salt.

Escarole and Fennel Salad:

  1. Coarsely chop escarole. Very thinly slice or mandoline-slice fennel and red onion. Thinly slice celery on bias. Place salad in bowl and dress with lemon juice and EVOO, pecorino, salt and pepper.