Skip to content
living a well tended life... at any age

faking it

I came across this recipe years ago, in the Wednesday section of the New York Times. It was in the “Minimalist” column, written by Mark Bittman – one of my favorite food writers. It was called “Pasta with Fast Sausage Ragu” – which intrigued me because I always thought that a ragu sauce was just the opposite – that is, slow and long-simmering.

Sure enough, Mr. Bittman described a ragu as follows:
“True ragù is a magnificent pasta sauce, a slow-simmered blend of meat, tomatoes and, usually, milk. The real thing takes hours, for the meat must become tender and contribute its silkiness to the sauce, the tomatoes must dissolve, and the milk must pull the whole thing together”.

Fine for a winter Sunday – but what about a basic weeknight meat sauce? One that is quick to put together and doesn’t make me resort to opening a jar?

This recipe does it all – it tastes like it took all day to make and yet is a cinch to pull together, with a minimal number of ingredients and even less fussing. It has become such a staple in our house that my kids refer to it as “that sauce” – as in:

“What’s for dinner Mom?”
“Pasta with that sauce“.


pasta with fast ragu sauce

Pasta with Fast Sausage Ragu
adapted from the New York Times

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 chopped onion
1/2 lb Italian sausage (sweet or spicy), casings removed*
1 c. white wine*
1 c. whole milk
1/4 c. tomato paste*
1 lb. pasta

grated parmesan, to taste

Put a large pot of water up to boil. In a 10″ skillet heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sausage in small bits and cook on medium-high, breaking up the sausage as much as possible, till nicely browned.

Add wine and boil till almost completely evaporated. Add milk and tomato paste, stirring till blended, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, add pasta to salted boiling water and cook according to directions.

Drain pasta, toss with sauce and serve immediately with cheese.

1. I usually get my sausage in one-pound packages, and a typical 6-ounce can of tomato paste is more than enough for this recipe. I wrap and freeze the leftover sausage and paste so that I have the ingredients ready to go. As I always have milk – and an onion or 2 lying around – as well as boxes of dried pasta, this is a great last-minute dinner.
The easiest way to freeze the tomato paste is to line your 1/4 cup measure with plastic wrap and put the paste inside. When frozen, pop the tomato paste out of the cup, wrap it in the plastic and store in a freezer bag with your sausage (see picture, above).
2. Did you know that you can freeze wine to use in recipes? I freeze 1-cup portions in zip loc bags and they are perfect for recipes like this one (assuming you don’t have a bottle already open in your frig).

(print this recipe)

This delicious recipe brought to you by Sheri Silver


  1. Sunny2bme on April 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks, I can’t wait to try it. I never new about the milk in the sauce. Will let you know if the kids like it. Plus, I am holding back on running to the store to build my own terrarium.

    • sheri silver on April 2, 2011 at 10:40 am

      Thank you! I know, the first time I did it I felt like, “this is wrong” – but it works, trust me! As for the terrariums, well, yes – they are addictive!

Leave a Comment