Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
“Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds
Does this young man look like he is enjoying this meal?
Don’t worry, we’re not talking crab grass here. Weeds refers to the type of pasta, gramigne, which Mario Batali’s cookbook describes as looking like an unraveled phone cord. I couldn’t find this type of pasta, but no worries, Batali goes on to explain that fusilli or rotelle are fine substitutes…I couldn’t find those either. I had to use my keen suburban wits and use thick-cut spaghetti. You can use store-bought Italian sausage, but wouldn’t making your own be so much more satisfying?
Adapted from “Molto Italiano” by Mario Batali
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, diced
1 pound loose Italian sausage (not in casing)
1 small can tomato paste (about 10 tablespoons)
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup whole milk
3/4 pound gramigne or thick spaghetti
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to top the pasta
Salt, pepper, and to taste
- In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat, add the onion and cook until it begins to turn golden brown
- Add the sausage, cook until it begins to brown and crisp, making sure to break the meat down into small pieces
- Add the tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly
- Add the wine, cook until evaporated
- Add the milk, lower to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, once sauce has thickened add 1 tablespoon butter
- Meanwhile boil pasta, reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the noodles
- Add cheese, stir to combine, then add enough pasta water to loosen up the sauce (probably ¼-1/2 cup)
- Season with salt and pepper
- Add noodles and stir to coat
- Top pasta with a little more cheese