Rigatoni with Italian “Sausage” and Roasted Mushrooms
This is a hearty, savory, pasta dish that will satisfy hungry non-vegans vegans alike. The “sauce” is good olive oil gently infused with the flavors of fennel seed, sage and fresh garlic; you want the oil just hot enough to lightly toast the fennel and garlic to release their flavors. Grilling the vegan “sausage” gives it the best flavor and texture.
Use a good vegan Parmesan-style cheese; putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes may make it easier to grate. We accidentally discovered that using a coarse Microplane grater on some vegan “hard” cheeses is perfect for getting a nice fine grate, without crumbling the cheese.
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1 package Field Roast Italian-style vegan sausage (4 links)
1 lb. fresh button mushrooms (e.g., crimini), washed and dried
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley (for garnish)
1/2 cup grated vegan Parmesan-style cheese, plus more for garnish if desired
Pinch (abt 3/4 tsp.) coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Tabletop electric grill with adjustable temperature, or a grill pan
Cut mushrooms into 3/8” thick slices. Slice sausage on the diagonal into 3/8” thick pieces.
Preheat oven to 400ºF (205ºC). Heat salted water for cooking pasta in large pot.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange mushroom slices in a single layer on paper. Roast in oven for 12 to 15 minutes until mushrooms shed some liquid and turn color; do not overcook. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Arrange sausage slices on preheated electric grill or in a grill pan. Grill over medium-high heat (400ºF / 205ºC surface temperature) for about 6-8 minutes, until sausage shows good grill marks. Remove from grill and set aside. Optionally, cut any larger pieces in half after grilling.
Cook pasta as directed for al dente. Drain and rinse. Discard liquid.
While pasta is cooking, in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add fennel seeds and “poach” for about 1 minute until fragrant and lightly browned, then add the pinch of salt, garlic and sage. Stir. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic just begins to turn light golden brown and loses its raw aroma. Remove from heat and let stand for about 5 minutes to infuse flavors and cool slightly.
Return sauté pan to very low heat. Add the drained pasta and stir gently to combine and coat with oil mixture. Gently fold in the cooked mushrooms and sausage. Stir in cheese and turn off heat. Taste for seasoning; add a little more salt if needed and finish with fresh ground pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve. Pass additional grated cheese on the side.