Written by Natalie Beech: nataliebeech.com
Illustration by Rhia Cook: @rhiacookmakes
Before we get into why sausage pasta is the best meal to grace this earth, let me offer a quick caveat. I am not much of a chef, I would go as far as to say that I don’t really like cooking. I like eating, and cooking is a means to an end in this respect. Anything involving a lot of time, difficult techniques, or fancy ingredients from a fancy shop, as Shania wisely said, don’t-impressa-me-much. I’m hungry. I like my food with haste.
Perhaps this explains why sausage pasta is my first, my last, my everything. I return to it week after week, and it works for literally every occasion. Friends round? Sausage pasta will help. Period starting? Sausage pasta will help. Struggling to live under capitalism? Sausage pasta will help. Existential crisis? You get the idea.
This article is less of an article than a love letter, and the whole thing is going to be thoroughly biased, without a hint of objectivity. I want to impart the magic of sausage pasta on everyone, and I will not tolerate you not enjoying it. Would it be my last meal? Yes, a thousand times, yes.
To give you an overview, and a brief history of the dish, sausage pasta involves:
Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages
Shop-bought tomato and mascarpone sauce
A mountain of mature, grated cheddar
And that’s it. Maybe some black pepper if you’re feeling spicy, or spinach if you’re feeling healthy, but anything else and you’re a philistine. This life-changing recipe came circa 1999 when I was seven years old, although this is an estimate, no one in my family can really recall when the phenomenon emerged, not even my mother, it’s humble creator. Preparing it goes like this:
Caramelise - not fry - the onions and garlic
Grill - not bake - the sausages
Boil the pasta with a pinch of salt
Add the sauce to the onions and garlic
Chop the sausages with scissors (yep)*
Drain the pasta
Mix it all together
Serve it in a bowl
Cover with an obscene amount of cheddar
*Before you scoff at this, have you ever tried cutting a pizza with scissors? 100% better than any pizza cutter on the market. You’re welcome.
The process of making sausage pasta is so ingrained in my psyche I could do it in my sleep. I’m fairly sure I have in my dreams. Despite about 10% of its cooking process being from scratch, I feel that it somehow belongs to me. I hear other people apparently make other types of sausage pasta, but honestly, I don’t want to know about it. My boyfriend (a very good cook) once remarked that sausage pasta is "not authentic” followed by an explanation of other “authentic” Italian dishes involving sausages, and I - rightfully - didn’t speak to him for two days.
It’s hard to understand where the obsession began. As much as I’ve tried to unpack the legacy story of sausage pasta with my mum, who imparted this great gift, she can’t remember why she decided to chop bits of sausage into pasta with a pair of scissors. Maybe it came to her in a dream. Maybe God spoke to her. Maybe we were defrosting the freezer and the sausages needed eating. Whatever it was, I’m grateful.
The only answer I’ve been offered is “your brother was always very hungry”, which refers to the fact that my teenage brother used to eat whole packets of malt loaf after dinner, followed by bowls of cereal. Sausage pasta was always made in vast quantities, I’m talking a few kilos, and offered from a huge, red bowl in the middle of our table, with multiple portions encouraged. To feel full of sausage pasta is to feel happiness, and it is impossible to experience it without feeling full - because it tastes so good, you will eat too much of it.
Is it possible that my enjoyment of sausage pasta is more about the feeling of family, I hear you say? The warmth of tradition? The feeling of togetherness? That I’m so protective over it because I am protective over them? Definitely not. It’s about sausages, pasta and cheese. You try it and tell me you don’t want to eat it every week. And if you don’t, then you’re categorically wrong, and I never want to speak to you ever again.
Natalie's piece was first published in our fifth issue, all about Rituals. Get your own copy here!