A taste of Christmas #2: Two sagey pastas (…and a partridge in a pear tree)

Sage is my favourite Christmas herb. In fact, it’s probably my favourite Christmas flavour. It needn’t be reserved for Christmas at all of course (one of the best uses of sage is gnocchi tossed in sage and butter – perfection), but around Christmastime I always seem to go a little bit sage crazy. This year was no exception and I found myself with an absolute glut of sage to use up (aw, shame). Short on time and energy (due to a rotten cold, which I still have, wail!), I decided to experiment with some sagey pastas to work my way through my sage excess.

Having already used sage, chestnuts and pancetta to make my butternut squash risotto, I had leftovers of all those delightful Christmas ingredients, so the first sagey pasta is spaghetti with chestnuts, pancetta and sage (waste not, want not). The second pasta is rigatoni with sausage meatballs, fennel and sage. The fennel and sage combo is so wintery and warming, and the sausage meatballs so easy to throw together. Both pastas take less that 30 minutes to cook, so they are perfect pre-Christmas dinners when you’ve got piles of present wrapping, mince-pie eating and mulled-wine drinking to be getting on with.

Spaghetti with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage

  • 70g cubed pancetta
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 small handful fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • 100g roasted and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped or crumbled
  • 200g dried spaghetti
  • a handful of parmesan, grated
  • a good knob of unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Using a heavy-bottomed frying pan, fry the pancetta cubes in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over a medium heat, stirring frequently. When beginning to brown and crisp up, add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the garlic and a tablespoon or so of chopped sage. After a minute, stir in the chestnuts and turn off the heat. Set aside for a minute.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a pot of boiling well-salted water according to the packet instructions. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and add to the pancetta mixture. Add a tablespoon of the reserved cooking water along with the knob of butter and the grated parmesan. Over a medium heat, toss the spaghetti well with the mixture until all the pasta is well coated and silky (add a little more of the cooking water if necessary). Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle over the parsley, the rest of the sage and some extra parmesan to serve.

Rigatoni with sausage meatballs, fennel and sage

  • 200g dried rigatoni pasta
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3-4 Italian sausages (I used sage and fennel sausages)
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml vegetable stock, hot (or if you prefer you can just use 400g of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 small handful fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • a small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • a handful of Parmesan, grated (plus extra for serving)

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Stir in the sliced garlic, half the chopped sage and fennel seeds and cook for a further minute. Split open the sausages, roll the sausage-meat into little meatballs and add to the onion and gently fry, until golden. Add the chopped tomatoes, purée and stock, and season well. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, then drain (reserving some of the cooking water). Toss the pasta with the sausage sauce, the rest of the sage and the chopped parsley along with a tablespoon of the reserved pasta water. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.



Filed under Christmas, Main courses, Pancetta/Bacon, Pasta, Recipes, Sage, Weekday dinners

3 responses to “A taste of Christmas #2: Two sagey pastas (…and a partridge in a pear tree)

  1. This pasta looks great. Very nice recipe

  2. Two lovely recipes, both great standbys for pre- and post-Christmas nights in. We all need a glut of carbs to soak up the plentiful and never ending supply of booze!

  3. God I love rigatoni – perfect with meatballs too.

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