I'm an Italian who learned to cook from an Italian and as we all know generational Italian recipes are “a little of this” and “a handful of that.” This Italian rustica style of cooking has always meant, “it will turn out just fine, no matter what,” to my extended family.
This is one of those dishes. You'll be pleasantly surprised how much flavor the sausage brings to the sauce as it finishes.
As a child, I remember smashing the potatoes in my bowl to thicken the sauce and dipping my Nonna's homemade bread into it. My daughter commented while we were cooking this dish that our house smelled just like Ma's (my Mom’s) house. One of the best compliments I could ever get.
Garlic, tomato sauce, basil, olive oil… I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does.
2lbs hot or mild italian sausage (I use a package of each)
3 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
2 - 3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 - 3 celery stalks, cut into chunks
2 zucchini (optional), halved and sliced
1 whole yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and left whole
2 cans of your favorite tomato purée or crushed tomatoes
2 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend
Salt and pepper to taste (tomatoes need salt so don't be surprised if you use 1+ tsp, but taste as you go)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional) for added heat
Fresh basil leaves, chopped
Parmesan cheese, shaved
Italian parsley, chopped
In a saucepan, add the sausage with 2 cups (or more as needed) water and bring to a boil; boil 5-7 minutes to remove some of the excess oils. Remove, cut into chunks, and set aside. It's alright if they are not fully cooked as they will cook in the sauce later.
While the sausage is cooking, heat a Dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil, and sauté onion and garlic together. Cook just until they start to get tender and watch to not burn your garlic.
Add carrots and potatoes. Sauté together 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Add tomato purée, remaining 1 cup water, sausage, celery, oregano, basil and optional pepper flakes.
Bring to a boil and cover, then down to a medium simmer for 1 hour or until potatoes are fork tender. Taste and season with more salt & pepper as needed. If adding zucchini, put it in at the 50 minute mark; it cooks quickly and nobody likes mushy zucchini.
Ladle portions into in soup bowls, then top with shaved parmesan, chopped parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and add a slice of crusty bread.
A full bodied Tuscan red or Chianti will balance out the acid of the tomato sauce nicely.