This dish is a variation on a dish by another chef I like to watch: Tom Colicchio from Craft. Tom is also the super-picky judge on Top Chef and has built quite a reputation for steak and Italian dishes.
I’ve never had pickled cherries and this combination sounds a little different. But I trust Tom. Without a real sauce and not a lot of fat, it’s both fresh-tasting and hearty at the same time.
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
1 pound Cavatelli pasta
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
3/4 cup pitted and chopped Pickled Cherries*
Shredded Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
*Pickled Cherry INGREDIENTS
1 cup sugar
2 cups sherry vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 pound cherries
For the cherries: In a saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil except the cherries.
Add the cherries and bring to a boil again. Turn the pot to medium and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the cherries completely cool. Refrigerate the cherries for at least 3 hours.
For the remainder of the dish: In a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the pistachios and toast over moderate heat, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and let cool, then coarsely chop.
In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil.
In the same saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the sausage and cook over moderate heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the thyme, garlic, black pepper and Aleppo (substitute a LITTLE cayenne or red pepper flakes as a substitute). Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the pasta and reserved cooking water and cook, stirring, until the pasta is hot and coated in a light sauce, about 3 minutes. Stem and pit the cherries, cutting them in halves.
Stir in 3/4 cup of the pickled cherries and the toasted pistachios and season with salt and black pepper.
Transfer to shallow bowls, top with cheese and serve.
Bring out some of that cherry flavor by pairing this with some Winzer Krems Blauer Zweiglt Privat. It’s inexpensive, pairs well and readily available.