Homemade is Better—Cream Salsa Penne

I was looking in our fridge one day and saw half a jar of salsa.  It occurred to me that store-bought salsa is mostly chunking tomato sauce, and if I mixed it with a dairy product, it could pass as a sort of rose sauce.  This is a recipe where something that we might not think of works well.  Many culinary inventions were discovered through happy accidents and trying new things.  I feel like I’ve written about accidental successes before, so I will dispense with regaling you about a myriad of culinary creations that just worked out.

Penne is an excellent noodle because it holds sauce well.  The ridges and tube shape make it perfect for getting more sauce to your taste buds.  If cooked al dente, the noodle also holds shape very well, and it’s easy to pick up with a fork.  Penne is my go-to when I want to make a quick pasta dish; you can toss it in the sauce, then plate it up and eat.  In our house, it’s in the top three noodles that we cook.  Spaghetti and fettuccini are the other two, although spaghettini or capellini are also staples.  I don’t make lasagna as much as I’d like, but, if I’m being honest, I get bored with lasagna sometimes.  It is, however, one of the few dishes that is typically better the next day.

One of the other inspirations for this dish was some Italian sausage I picked up.  I grabbed a pack of nine, but I only used four in this recipe.  I cut them up and browned them in a metal frying pan.  Once they were browned, I transferred them to a bowl and cooked some bell peppers.  At this point, I would usually deglaze the pan, which is adding a liquid to break up the browned bits, also called the fond.  It’s all flavour, and we don’t want to waste flavour.  I used the salsa in this case to deglaze.  The water content in the salsa loosens the fond and helps to thicken up the sauce.  Add the sausage back in to simmer for a bit and ensure it cooks thoroughly.  Lastly, you add the heavy cream or whipping cream (that has not been whipped), and you get a sort of rose sauce.

Creamy salsa penne

Ingredients:

4 Italian sausages – ½ inch slices
2 peppers sliced
1 box of penne
1 small jar of salsa (or half of a large one)
3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
  • Grab a large pot and fill it ¾ full of water. Generously salt the water; it should taste salty.
  • Put your pot on the stovetop and turn the element to high. A lid will help to speed up the boiling process.
  • Once the water boils, add the penne and cook until the noodle offers minimal resistance, also known as al dente. Read the package directions for a better idea of time, but maybe 7-8 minutes, you’ll have to taste them, and they should hold shape but still have a little firmness when chewing.
  • While you wait for the water to boil, cut your peppers into thin strips.
  • Slice the sausage into the ½ inch slices.
  • Grab a large frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil, and let it heat over high heat.
  • Once the pan is hot, add the sausages and let them brown on all sides. Don’t force them to move; they will move when ready.  If you can grab them off the frying pan easily, you can flip them over and let them cook on the other side.
  • Once all the sausages have been browned on two sides, remove them to a plate or bowl.
  • Add the peppers in and cook them for 2-3 minutes, moving them and watching that they don’t start to burn.
  • After the peppers have cooked, add back the sausage and add the salsa.
  • Cook until the salsa thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • Add in the cream and stir.
  • Taste the sauce to ensure you are pleased with it; if not, a few pinches of salt and some black pepper will probably do the trick.
  • Once the noodles are cooked, strain them into a strainer over the sink, then toss them back into the pot.
  • Add the sauce to the pot and stir so everything mixes and gets coated.
  • Serve it up, and enjoy!
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